Duval Making Progress On his Own Terms

By Associated PressJanuary 24, 2006, 5:00 pm
David Toms was curious, like so many others who get paired with David Duval.
They had not played together since the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage, where Duval was the reigning British Open champion. Duval shot 78 that day, the start of a spiral into one of the most mystifying slumps in golf.

Toms didn't know what went wrong. He only saw the scores.
Duval's five-year exemption on the PGA Tour from his British Open victory expires this season, something he was more aware of last year when he hit rock bottom. He shot more rounds in the 80s than the 60s, and the only cut he made in 20 starts on tour was a tie for 60th in the Texas Open.
It is important that he plays well this year, and his start to the season did not bode well. Fidgeting over his opening tee shot at the Sony Open, trying to find a posture that didn't cause his back to lock up, Duval hit a nasty hook that one-hopped off the driving range net and settled at the base of a palm tree.
Double bogey.
On the second hole, another wild hook. Toms raced to the front of the tree-lined tee box to see where Duval's drive crossed the water hazard in case there was a question where to drop. Instead, the ball bounced off the rocks on the other side of the 20-yard stream and landed in the third fairway.
Next tee.
'There you go,' Toms said to him as Duval's drive found the third fairway, this time on purpose.
'I didn't know what to expect,' Toms said later. 'He said he had been swinging well at home, and then he hurt his back when he got here. I could tell he was disappointed. He hit that first tee shot, the next one ... and then he started playing well. And on Friday, other than a couple of drives, he was in control of everything.'
No doubt, Duval is making progress.
He shot 68 to make the cut on the number at the Sony Open, which he later described as a baby step.
What felt more like a leap was how he got to the weekend at Waialae. One shot over the cut line with two holes to play, he stood on the tee with a strong wind against him and from the left on the par-4 eighth, the toughest conditions for him to hit a fairway that he couldn't afford to miss.
Duval went after it and hammered the ball down the middle, leading to a birdie chance he narrowly missed. Then he pounded another drive down the middle on the par-5 ninth, leaving him a 3-iron into the green for a two-putt birdie.
It was too early in the year, and too far from the lead, to feel any pressure.
But he felt it.
Duval compared the jangled nerves on the eighth tee at Waialae with what he felt on the 17th tee at Sawgrass in 1999, when he hit wedge into 6 feet on the island green to clinch The Players Championship, the victory that made him No. 1 in the world.
If he has the kind of year he expects, remember that hole.
'I don't think this answers whether I can get it back,' Duval said, mocking a question that has been making the rounds lately. 'But I still know how to play, how to compete. Standing on that tee, I knew I had to make at least one birdie, if not two. And you can't hit it as good as I did on those holes. The heat was there, and I did it.'
More proof came last week at the Bob Hope Classic.
Blown away by howling wind on a new golf course in the desert, he tumbled to a 78 in the second round. But he kept plugging along, and shot 64 with an insurance birdie on the last hole to make the cut again.
'Are there little steps or small victories involved? Sure, I guess,' Duval said. 'Buy my goal isn't to make cuts. I know I'm playing well enough to win tournaments. It's a matter of staying with it.'
Duval has had ample incentive to quit.
Injuries have been such a part of his career -- both shoulders, right wrist, the lower back -- that he is tired of talking about it. He is financially set and has never been happier. He dotes on his wife's three children, and he and Susie now travel with Brayden, a miracle son born to them last April.
He is driven to play well, even if he has a hard time explaining that to his skeptics.
His goals might not be the same as those watching him, or even those against whom he competes. There is no greater thrill in golf than holding a trophy, something he hasn't done since Japan at the end of 2001.
But that hardly constitutes fulfillment.
Duval figured that out a few weeks after he claimed possession of the claret jug, the oldest trophy in golf.
'People who play the sport are viewed differently, more as entities than people,' he said. 'Their desires and goals should be about winning, and I guess I bought into it a little bit. But I've always just wanted to see how good I could be, and who knows what that measurement should be? I still have many years to find out.
'I know I was the best player in the world,' he said. 'I still feel like, if I'm healthy, I can be one of the better players -- whether that's top five, 10, 20, whatever.'
There is a long road ahead, and Duval is making progress only he can measure.
He went through four swing coaches in four years before reuniting last year with college coach Puggy Blackmon. His swing is looking closer to what it was in 2001, when he came within two putts of keeping Tiger Woods from his fourth consecutive major at the Masters, then captured a major of his own at Royal Lytham.
He is not worried about keeping his card.
'I feel like I won the golf swing battles,' Duval said. 'Now it's a matter of building confidence again.'
Related links:
  • David Duval Photo Gallery
  • Golf, by George - Duval Goes to the End and Back
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.