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David Duval shows the mettle to win a major

SHARE David Duval shows the mettle to win a major

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — The stoic expression David Duval hides behind sunglasses hardly ever changed until the last putt fell Sunday at the British Open.

Only then did he peel off his wraparound shades and blink in the bright sunlight over Royal Lytham & St. Annes, finally able to call himself a major champion.

He never looked at a leaderboard Sunday. He didn't have to. Duval always believed he had the mettle to withstand the pressure of golf's sternest test, and the silver claret jug he held aloft was the greatest proof of all.

"I knew it was there, I just needed to play good," he said.

Duval refused to let the final round turn into the 18-hole shootout everyone expected, seizing control with a rock-solid game that carried him to a 4-under 67 and gave him the prize that had eluded him the past four years.

"I don't know if I can savor this any more than I do now," he said. "I imagine what it would do is intensify my desire to do it again."

Duval finished at 274 for a three-stroke victory over Niclas Fasth of Sweden, the only one among a long list of proven players who sustained any kind of challenge.

Former Masters champion Ian Woosnam might have been one of them. But after nearly making an ace on the opening hole, the Welshman realized he had an extra club in his bag and was assessed a two-stroke penalty.

"I did not really get out of my head all the way around," Woosnam said. "Everything seemed to be going against me."

Haunted by the costly mistake, Woosnam finished with a 71 and was four strokes back at 278 along with five others.

Three of them were major championship winners — Woosnam, two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer and two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els.

Duval takes his place among them.

The only player besides Tiger Woods to be ranked No. 1 in the past three years, Duval expected to be there all along.

He carried some baggage to Royal Lytham — four chances at Augusta National, two at the U.S. Open and even last year at St. Andrews. Duval flew home from that British Open with Woods and got a good look at the claret jug.

On Sunday, he never really let it out of his grasp.

"It's kind of a big relief," he said. "It's so pressure-packed in major championships, and then you put it on a golf course like this, where any minor mistake is magnified and it makes the pressure even greater. You just can't let up, and I didn't let up today."

He won for the first time this year, and became the sixth American in the past seven years to claim golf's oldest championship.

Caressing the claret jug, Duval scanned the names on the trophy and found his right below Woods.

"When you beat him and the other players on that board, you could look at maybe as how the players felt beating Jack Nicklaus or Tom Watson," he said. "They know they've beaten the best player. I beat them all this week, and it feels really good. It feels wonderful."

Meanwhile, another major championship passed without Woods in serious contention.

Like so many others, Woods couldn't make enough birdies on a firm, fast links course littered with pot bunkers. He took triple bogey on the par-3 12th and wound up nine strokes behind in a tie for 25th, his worst finish in a major in nearly four years.

"I'm not thrilled that I wasn't able to contend down the stretch, but I had my chances out there," Woods said after a 71.

He wasn't alone.

Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland was at 8-under par and rolling — until his tee shot rolled into a pot bunker on No. 17 and he took double bogey.

Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain also got to 8 under until he fell back with back-to-back bogeys. The only other American to make a move was Billy Mayfair, who finished with eight straight pars and wound up in the group at 278.