Mercedes Championship
Mercedes Championship
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Duval running away with Mercedes

KA LUA, Hawaii (January 9, 1999) It's going to take a lot more than the Trade winds to stop David Duval in the Mercedes Championship.

Playing his best golf in the first tournament of the year, Duval shot a 5-under-par 68 today to maintain a five-stroke lead on the Kapalua Plantation course and make everyone else wonder what the rest of the year might hold.

"I'm just glad he's going skiing and not playing at the Sony Open," said Davis Love III, referring to the next week's PGA Tour stop in Honolulu.

If the rest of the year is anything like this week, that may be the best chance anyone else has of winning.

Duval was at 21-under 198 through 54 holes. All he needs is a round of 72 on Sunday to break the tournament scoring record in relation to par. Another 68 would break the record of 21-under 267 that Calvin Peete set in 1986 when the Mercedes was played at La Costa Resort.

Fred Funk, a short, straight hitter, had a 68 and was five strokes back at 203. Billy Mayfair was at 204, while Tiger Woods had the best round of the day -- a 67 -- that left him at 205 and very much in Duval's wake.

"I was hoping to get back to where I could possibly see him," Woods said. "It might have been a good tournament for me if he had given me one shot for every nine holes. Then, I'd only be one back."

One day after tying the course record with a 63, Duval easily handled a strong breeze off the Northeast coast of Maui.

OK, so it took him all of five holes before he registered his first birdie of the day. That only seemed to open the gates -- back-to-back birdies to close out the front nine, and another spurt that grew his lead to as many as six strokes.

O'Meara was at 5-under for the day, one of several players trying to make a run, when he glanced at the electronic scoreboard and saw Duval matching him stroke for stroke.

"He in a zone now," O'Meara said. "The Trade winds were blowing, although not as hard as they could. What can you say about David Duval? He's going crazy out there."

Woods got within three strokes of Duval with birdies on the 10th and 11th. By the time he saw another leaderboard, Duval had thrown down three more birdies and Woods was right back where he started.

"I made a little run on the front nine, but I needed to play the back in about 5-under to have some kind of a shot," Woods said. "It looks like that might be out of the question. Hats off to David. You would think after David shot a 63 that he would come out flat. But he's pounding away."

With the stronger wind -- although not nearly as nasty as it usually blows -- only half of the 30 players in the winners-only field managed to break par. Fred Couples finished with an even-par 73, the first time in 23 rounds on the Plantation course that he has failed to break par.

The forecast is for stronger gusts on Sunday, not like that will make a difference. The only blemish for Duval was a bogey on the 16th hole, his first in 44 holes at Kapalua.

A victory on Sunday, which seems like a shoo-in unless Duval misses his tee time, would be his eighth in his last 27 tournaments, the best stretch of golf since Tom Watson won eight times in a 12-month period that ended in 1980.

Woods is still No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings, but even Woods isn't putting much stock in that right now.

"Him, Mark and Lee (Westwood), those are the guys you have to start watching every week," Woods said.


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