David Duval returns

Doug Ferguson at the Associated Press returns with another fine piece on David Duval. An interesting piece, suggesting Duval hasn’t picked up a club much over the winter, though there sounds like a lot of snowboarding might have occured. Here’s the story:

For what it is worth, I found Duval to be a charming, interesting guy when I interviewed him. He is apparently a lot crankier with television reporters who are only interested in 10 second soundbites. David isn’t really down with that.

Here’s my story from the Canadian Open last year.

Duval battles back after two tough years: ‘A good place to be
National Post
Friday, September 10, 2004
Page: B7 / FRONT
Section: Sports
Byline: *Robert* *Thompson*

OAKVILLE, Ont. – The last two years have been like a country and western song for *David* *Duval*. He broke up with his fiancee, he hurt his back and his golf game went south.

But Duval, who to many golf fans seemed shielded behind his dark sunglasses and impenetrable personality, appears to have become a fan favourite as he continues along the comeback trail. And after
shooting an even-par 71 in windy conditions yesterday, he said the fans can relate to the trials he has seen over the last two years.

“Everyone has had hard times,” Duval said after making par on the 18th at Glen Abbey. “Everyone has gone through that.”

Duval certainly has seen hard times.

After winning the British Open in 2001, injuries forced him to slightly alter his swing. His game disintegrated in 2002 and came to a grinding halt last year when he made only four cuts and US$84,708.

Then Duval simply disappeared.

He emerged this summer at the U.S. Open as a changed man. He got married to a women who had three children from a previous marriage and became a father overnight.

Once a workout fanatic, Duval’s back injuries limited his time at the gym. Despite that, he slowly began working on his golf game, far away from the eyes of the media. The man who once shot 59 to win a
PGA tournament says he began to have fun playing golf once again.

He even kept a big smile on his face while posting 82 and 83 on the first two days of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock and proclaimed he had fun doing it. He showed some progress while missing the cut at the
PGA Championship last month at Whistling Straits, and then made what appeared to be a breakthrough last weekend at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston, where he made made his first cut in 15
months and finished 13th.

At one time that result would have been the sign of a poor week for Duval, who twice won four tournaments in a season. Still, last weekend’s result appears to have provided a huge boost of confidence.

“It’s a lot of progress from a couple of months ago,” he said. “This is a good place to be now.”

In an attempt to make him competitive again, Duval has been working with Hank Haney, the coach best known for helping Mark O’Meara win the British Open and Masters in 1998.

The changes Duval and Haney have made include weakening his unusually strong grip to help add a degree of consistency off the tee. Duval missed a few fairways yesterday, but looked comfortable
with the driver in his hands. The change is new and different enough from his former approach that Duval admitted he still thinks about it when he is playing.

Still, at times yesterday he looked like the *David* *Duval* who shot 59 to win the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in 1999.

In blustery conditions, Duval managed to make a couple of early birdies, though a double bogey on the tricky par-four ninth hole slightly derailed his progress. After missing a birdie putt on the 18th, Duval walked away with an even-par round, perhaps the worst score he could have posted considering how well he played.

But as a sign of just how far he has come from his struggles, Duval said he wasn’t pleased with his final number yesterday.
“I’m pleased with how I hit it, but I’m not satisfied with my score at all.”

While Duval is often portrayed as a dour character, yesterday he was quick with a self-deprecating comment, often about his struggles over the past two years.

“There’s nothing I can’t do with a golf ball — I’ve shown that for a few years. I can hit it two fairways over,” he joked. “I know what good golf is and I know what bad golf is all about.”

Duval expects to play several more events before the end of the year in the hopes of continuing his progress. But don’t expect to see him playing in golf’s so-called “silly season” of high-paying
exhibitions in the fall.

“I’m not wanted anywhere,” he said without altering his expression.

That doesn’t appear to be the case judging from the large gallery of fans that followed him yesterday.

“Everybody is watching to see if he can get back,” said Jim Foster, a London, Ont., spectator who followed Duval’s round yesterday. “Everybody remembers he shot 59.”

While eight of the American players in the field will head to Detroit next week to play in the Ryder Cup, Duval will head home to Denver where he’ll watch the event he played twice on television.

That’s the one of the hardest parts of his tumble from the top of the PGA Tour, Duval admits.

“I’m looking forward to [watching the event], but not looking forward to it at the same time, if you know what I mean. That’s the worst thing that’s happened to me — not making that team.”

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Jeff Lancaster

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