The Masters
The Masters
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Masters Features
Masters begins with traditional start
Notes from the Masters April 8
Woods in dig at Seve
90-year-old steals show in par-3 tournament
Westwood believes he can win it
The new and improved Augusta National?
Nicklaus won't be watching
Duval a steady influence on & off the course
Fluff returns to work for Furyk
Garcia ready for Wood duel
Westwood trying to shrug off illness
Day 1 & 2 pairings and tee times
Norman ready for Masters
Couples wants another chance
Notes April 7
Will it be Woods vs Duval ?
Augusta turned upside down
Internationals lose their meal
Could an amateur prevail ?
Duval, rough dominate Masters talk

Too bad Monday was only a practice round at the Masters. David Duval took the day off.

While most everyone else was getting a look at he new rough and the two new tee boxes at Augusta National, Duval arrived at the clubhouse with little fanfare, seated backward in the back of a golf cart. That seemed only appropriate.

During the first three months of the season, Duval has left everyone in his wake.

"I wish he would play a little less, so maybe I might win one," Justin Leonard said. "What he's done is incredible. If there was somebody whose respect he didn't have before this year, I think he's gained it."

Duval's latest conquest was Sunday in the BellSouth Classic, where he went from two strokes down to a two-stroke victory over the last four holes in which the full measure of his game was on display -- brilliant chipping, solid putting, long drives and remarkable calm.

"He's definitely got something going on in his head that most people don't have," said Mark Calcavecchia. "That could be the peaceful feeling he's talking about, the thing where you hit it, find it and hit it again. He knows he's good enough that he can keep plugging away."

It was his fourth victory this year, and second time he had won back-to-back. No one else has won more than once this year.

Calcavecchia watched it all unfold on the television in Augusta's clubhouse, where he stopped for lunch before playing nine holes in fading sunlight.

"Is he going to win every tournament?" Calcavecchia said. "Four wins in the '90s is good, let alone four wins in 3½ months. That's unbelievable. He's got to be the man to beat. I can't imagine he's going to suffer any kind of letdown."

That proved to be a popular sentiment on Monday. The Duval Express was as hot a topic Monday as the crew-cut rough that frames the fairways and the 17th tee box that has been moved back 25 yards, finally making the best players in the world realize why President Eisenhower wanted to chop down the pine tree that looms over the left side of the fairway.

Winning four tournaments in a year is heady stuff. Since 1980, only Nick Price in 1994 has won more often in a full season. Duval still has about 16 events left this year, including the four majors.

"He's been hotter than a firecracker," said Fuzzy Zoeller. "He has a lot of talent, and it was just a matter of time before it started happening."

With his victory in The Players Championship two weeks ago, Duval rose to No. 1 in the world ranking, ending Tiger Woods' reign at 41 weeks. He still lacks a major championship, and being the heavy favorite at Augusta doesn't always guarantee a green jacket.

The last player who came to the Masters on this kind of a roll and managed to win was Fred Couples in 1992.

"He hasn't won a major yet," Couples said. "But he's won 11 of the last 34 times he's played. That's borderline ridiculous. I don't know of anyone else who's done that."

The last player to put together such a stretch was Tom Watson in 1980. To find someone who has already won four times going into the Masters, go all the way back to the Johnny Miller in 1974.

"Has he really won four already?" Jim Furyk asked. "I don't think anyone is surprised because Davis has been playing well and he really doesn't have any weaknesses. Then again, it's incredible."

Miller finished in a tie for 15th in The Masters that year, but he bagged his four victories before he even got to the Florida swing. Duval comes into the Masters riding the confidence of having won the past two weeks.

"I think my head is where it needs to be," Duval said. "I think my golf swing is where it needs to be. It is in a good spot right now."

All he needs now is rest, which is why he didn't even bother to bring his clubs down Magnolia Lane when he registered. Duval always takes Monday off, and there's no reason to change that this week.

More than anything, Duval attributes his success this year to his frame of mind. He won in Hawaii, took a week off to go snowboarding in Idaho, then came back and shot a 59 on Sunday to win the Hope Classic.

He took off three weeks in March, showed up at The Players Championship and won the biggest tournament of his career to date, then moved on to Atlanta for another victory speech.

"If you make sure you're rested when you're playing, and that you are ready to play and you're looking forward to playing, I have found that to be the most important thing for me to play well," he said. "I need to be in a position where I want to play."

He is in that position now -- at the top of his game, in the most important arena in golf, facing a field that is not about to hand him a green jacket without a fight.