MIAMI -- David Duval and the Blue Monster course at Doral are a perfect fit this year. Both have toned down significantly.
For Doral, that means 70 bunkers have either been removed or reduced, bringing the lush green grass back into view and giving the caddies a break from raking so much sand.
''You can see fairways now,'' Duval said Wednesday. ''You can see where to hit the ball. It doesn't look like you're just hitting at white stuff everywhere.''
What does that mean for Duval?
He, too, has gone through a metamorphosis of sorts, the result of a diet and exercise regimen that has left him looking thin enough to slice bread. The other big change is that he hasn't won.
And that's a big reason why he was a last-minute entry in the Doral-Ryder Open, which starts today.
Duval was slowed by his putter earlier in the year, and the results have been unpredictable on the bumpy, rain-soaked greens of California his past three events.
OK, so he hasn't won twice or shot a 59 like he had done at this time last year. Asked how his game compared, Duval held his fingers a quarter-inch apart.
''Really close,'' he said.
He has finished third on two occasions -- four strokes out of the playoff in the Mercedes Championship in January, and a 4 and 2 loss to Darren Clarke in the semifinals of the Match Play Championship last week. He rebounded for a 5 and 4 thrashing of Davis Love III.
He played in the final group in the Bob Hope Classic, couldn't hit the hole on putts inside 10 feet and tied for fifth. He was just three strokes out of the lead in Los Angeles going into the final round and putted nicely -- except the birdie tries came from long range.
''I have played pretty well, and didn't get anything out of it on the green,'' Duval said. ''Then the last week, I started to hole a few putts. It hasn't been far off all year, just a little bit. I think I'm about ready.''
Better news for the rest of the field: The Blue Monster is ready, too.
The course originally designed by Dick Wilson went through a facelift in 1996 when Doral asked Raymond Floyd to make it tougher. Floyd all but imported the Gobi Desert, adding more bunkers and turning others into sand pits.
The changes were so severe that several players stopped coming.
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