Duval Still Smiling After 83

By Associated PressJune 17, 2004, 4:00 pm
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Nobody this side of Arnold Palmer ever smiled so much shooting an 83. David Duval was thrilled to be playing golf again, and the fans at Shinnecock Hills who cheered him at every turn made him feel like a king Thursday in the U.S. Open.
Never mind that he spent most of his round in grass up to his knees. It got so bad on the front nine that Duval had to take an unplayable lie from the rough on consecutive holes. When he chopped out from the left rough to the right rough and eventually made double bogey on the 18th hole, he had an 83 to match his worst score as a professional.
And the applause only got louder.
'If he had played how they rooted for him, he would done very well,' Scott Hoch said.
Duval returned to competition for the first time in seven months, bringing an untested game to the toughest test in golf. The result was predictable, but that's not how Duval kept score.
'There's some kinks to work out and some rust to get rid of,' he said. 'But at least I did a lot of things I wanted to do today. And most importantly, I enjoyed being out there.
'All in all, I would call it an enormous victory for me today.'
The last time anyone saw Duval at a major, he shot 80 in the first round of the PGA Championship in August, withdrew from the tournament and a short time later vanished from the PGA Tour. Some of it was his health. Most of it was his confidence. He became a shattered shell of a guy who was No. 1 in the world five years ago and a British Open champion in 2001.
Judging strictly on his performance, not much has changed.
Based on his demeanor, he looked like a new man.
During his time away, Duval married and found happiness at home in Denver with a wife and her three children. He learned to appreciate that he can play golf for a living, but made sure he returned only when he was excited to play.
'I stand here a blessed man,' he said. 'What's happened to me in the last six to eight months is far greater than anything I've ever done for the last 10 years around here.'
For a fleeting moment, it looked like Duval was still an awesome talent in control of his game.
'Tear it up, David!' someone from the gallery cried out as he prepared to hit his opening tee shot.
Duval backed off, smiled at caddie Mitch Knox, then ripped a 3-wood down the middle of the narrow fairway. From there, he hit a wedge 12 feet below the cup and when his birdie putt dropped, Duval was 1 under par and tied for the lead in the U.S. Open.
OK, it was early.
'I want to see the headline - Duval leading U.S. Open,' joked his agent, Charley Moore.
Another good tee shot on the par-3 second was about a foot away from being perfect, but caught a ridge and dropped into the bunker. Duval saved par with a 10-foot putt, then saved another par after barely catching the right rough with a 3-wood off the tee.
So far, so good.
All it took was one hole for everything to fall apart. Duval duck-hooked his driver so badly on No. 4 that it went beyond the rough into a large clump of weeds. It was buried so deep he had to take a penalty drop into hay that had been trampled by the gallery, and he eventually three-putted for double bogey.
Duval hooked another tee shot on the par-5 fifth and tried to hack out of the weeds, only for the grass to grab the bottom of his club and send the shot into even deeper rough. The top of the grass was almost to his waist, and Duval had no choice but to take another unplayable lie, another penalty shot, another double bogey.
'It goes without saying I'm not tournament ready,' Duval said. 'Then, add the U.S. Open course to the mix and that adds some more shots to the score. How many? I'm not sure.'
Duval's problems started off the tee, no matter what club he had in his hands. Of the four fairways he hit, he made two birdies, the other one coming on a 50-foot putt at the 12th. That also was the only hole where he didn't make bogey on the back nine.
The fans said, 'Welcome back, David' on every hole, and Duval acknowledge every fan.
Shinnecock Hills seemed to say him, 'Welcome to the U.S. Open.'
Tiger Woods, who replaced Duval at No. 1 at the '99 PGA Championship and has been there ever since, played two groups behind and caught up with him after the round.
'The U.S. Open is going to be tough, and if plays poorly, a lot of guys are,' Woods said. 'So, of all the tournaments to play, I think he's probably doing the right thing.'
Despite an 83 - he also had an 83 in the British Open and Masters last year - and despite hitting only three greens in regulation, Duval said he is 'right on the edge' of playing good golf.
'Some of that involves being out here and getting comfortable,' he said. 'Some of that involves building confidence and belief in the way I'm swinging and the work I've done.'
He still doesn't know how much he will play the rest of the year, but he left on a high note.
'I can't wait to go play tomorrow,' Duval said.
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    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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