That is the scenario facing David Duval today. He is leaving Augusta and the Masters after a quick two-and-out. It is a depressing end in a season that now has seen him miss four cuts in a row. This, after surviving three cuts early in the season when it appeared that his nightmare of the past four years was just about over.
Duval opened with an 84 Thursday, following that with a rollercoaster 75 Friday. Back to the drawing board it is for the tortured 34-year-old who has fought practically every physical malady known to man since 2001, when he won for the last time. Oh ' that was the British Open, incidentally, and it is the Opens five-year exemption that has kept him playing. That one, however, runs out after this season.
Duval understandably didnt want to talk too much about the experience following this disaster. No soul-searching mea culpas were expected, and none were forthcoming. It was simply time to reflect, time to get on with more practice ' and time to forget.
'He's hitting it as well as he's ever hit it,' swing coach Puggy Blackmon had told the Rocky Mountain News earlier this week before the first round was played. 'Technically and fundamentally, he's back.
'Now it's just a matter of when it all comes together - with the mental part and confidence and all the other stuff that comes with being a world-class golfer. It's going to happen; it's just a matter of when.'
Duval has shown flashes of the old David. In his first and only cut made last year, in September at the Valero Texas Open, Duval put his finger on the problem.
It's a cycle that needed to be broken, he said. But I've been playing a lot better than my scores have reflected for the last six weeks.
You know, each day I seem to hit the highest score I could possibly, the last six or eight rounds I've played. It's no different this week so far. I've hit it really well, just made a couple stupid mistakes.
Following that Texas Open appearance, he shot a 64 at Las Vegas in the second round, though a poor first round meant that he missed the cut in that one, too. And he fired a 63 in the last round of the Sony Open in January of this year.
That, incidentally, was his lowest score in three years and brought back memories to the 59 he shot at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
'I thought about it,' he confessed that Sunday. 'It was relatively similar to the way I felt at the Hope. I wanted to do it again today.'
He made the cut again at the Hope this year. He missed at Phoenix, the then made it again at the Nissan ' his last success. That was the middle of February.
It's the same as I've been saying for all the year - I'm playing very well and just not getting anything out of it, he said after missing the cut at the Players Championship.
Alas. Duval has just been missing cuts of late ' hes been missing them badly. At Tucson, he missed by five strokes. At Bay Hill, the margin was four. And at the Players, it was six before the Masters.
He still has a couple of exemptions left, exemptions that he dearly hopes he wont have to use this quickly. He has a top-25 in career money for a one-time-only exemption. And, should he still be struggling, he can use a top-50 career money exemption once.
After those two exemptions, there is nothing - nothing to save the man who made it all the way to No. 1 in the world rankings in 1999 to interrupt Tiger Woods long run, nothing to soften the blow to this gent who once won four times in the spring before the 99 Masters. That hasnt been done since Johnny Miller in 1974.
The two exemptions, though, dont mean anything to the Augusta brass. Meaning, unless he breaks out of his four-year slump, Friday was his swan song at the Masters. This, from a man who in 98 might have won except for a 20-foot putt by Mark OMeara on the final hole. And he would have won in 2001 - should have won it after grabbing hold of the lead with three holes left - but a bogey and two missed birdie chances enabled Tiger Woods to pass him. And either win would have meant Duval could have played here until a ripe old age.
If its any consolation, Duval has much better stats this year than last. Before Augusta, he was striping his tee shots 296.8 yards, compared to only 287.5 last year. His driving-accuracy isnt good at only 47.1 percent, but that is a quantum leap compared to last years 41.9. His greens-in-regulation percentage has risen to 61.4 ' it was 50.5 last year. And, he is a much better putter ' 1.759 per hole, whereas last year it was 1.812.
The point is, he is much improved over last year. The depressing fact is, he still isnt playing well enough to play on the PGA Tour. And the Masters certainly didnt offer him any encouragement to the contrary.
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