Far more rough than smooth since Duval's day in the sun

Sat, Jul 14, 2012, 01:00

PHILIP REIDprofiles a golfer who looked to have the world at his feet when he won the British Open at Lytham in 2001. Alas, it was to be the high point of a career that has flatlined in recent years

WHERE DID it all go wrong, on the golf course, for David Duval?

In 2001, the American – a one-time world number one – won his one and only Major when he was the last man standing in the British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes.

The over-riding sentiment was that it was an over-due win for one of modern golf’s great players, and the common consensus from his peers in the locker-room was that getting his hands on the Claret Jug was only the start of it.

By the end of his career, he’d have a cabinet full of such trophies.

Or so the logic went.

It didn’t turn out that way.

This season Duval is in what is now the familiar position of playing whatever events he can on the US Tour without a full tour card after last year failing to finish inside the top 125 on the money list for an eighth time in nine seasons. He then failed to make it through Q-school.

His appearances on tour are at the behest of sponsors, but – more often than not – his work has been done before the weekend: in 12 appearances so far this season on the PGA Tour up to this week’s John Deere tournament, Duval had survived the cut only twice with a best-finish of 60th in the Texas Open.

In the main, there have been only occasional flashes of Duval’s brilliance of the past.

In the 2009 US Open at Bethpage, the blast from the past managed a tied-second place finish alongside Phil Mickelson and Ricky Barnes behind champion Lucas Glover. It was also the year he used up his one-time exemption on the US Tour career money list.

A couple of years ago, he was ditched as one of Nike’s poster boys and, these days, his endorsement deals are with Scratch Golf – where he became a part-owner of the equipment company – and Perky Jerky, promoting beef jerky.

How did it all come to this for a man who once shot 59 in the Bob Hope Classic (in 1999), won 13 titles on the US Tour (11 of them between 1997-99) and played Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup?

The answer is as complicated as the man in question, but he certainly suffered his share of injuries (among them back, shoulder and wrist issues as well as spells of vertigo) and, also, discovered a life away from golf in enjoying time with his family.

In attempting to analyse why his game went on him after his British Open triumph, Duval remarked: “I think I figured it would mean personal validation as opposed to professional validation. You know, look at me: I’m okay. I’m a good guy, not just a good golfer.

“So in that respect, it was not the end-all, be-all that I made it out to be in my head. And things might have been different had I really felt I was playing well there in 2001.

“Of all the tournaments I’ve won, I dare say that’s the least comfortable I’ve ever felt with my game and my ability to control the ball.”

Still, the extent that his game – and especially his driver – deserted him is, perhaps, best indicated by the driving accuracy statistics which show that, in 2002, he hit a very acceptable 72 per cent of fairways.

This season, in the tournaments he has played, Duval has found just 45 per cent of fairways.

It’s a hard game to play from the rough, and Duval, the last winner of the Open when it was staged at Lytham, has had his share of rough times since then.

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