In 1999, David Duval was indifferent, almost flippant in his view of the Ryder Cup.
Its an exhibition, he said prior to his Ryder Cup debut. The whole thing is pretty overcooked.
He even spoke of a player boycott if the PGA of America didnt do a better job of allocating their earnings.
At the time, he had never played in such a competition. His statements were those made from a man without experience or appreciation.
Fast-forward five years and Duval has both attributes. But now hes a spectator, not a competitor. Hes sitting at home watching the television. He becomes anxious and envious. He sees the Europeans humiliate his former teammates. And a spark is ignited.
With the bad golf that Ive played out there for everyone to witness the last two, three years, it finally hit home at the Ryder Cup, he said Wednesday. It was hard not being a part of it.
Im not saying that I could have affected the outcome. But having to sit on the sidelines was difficult. Im looking forward to making the next team, helping the Americans figure out how to win it.
Simply put, Duval missed being among the best.
While most of the top-ranked players in the world are competing at the exclusive $7 million World Golf Championships-American Express Championship in Ireland, Duval is thousands of miles away in rural Madison, Miss., pop. 14,692.
Duval is competing in his seventh PGA Tour event of the season. In short terms, he was preparing Wednesday for the Southern Farm Bureau Classic. In the long run, however, he was continuing his preparations for the 2005 season.
And his return to elite status.
I guess that would be the reason. Im going to try and play a full schedule next year, he said.
Duval skipped the first six months of this season, while trying to rediscover the form that produced 13 tour titles, one major championship and a No. 1 ranking. In absence, he was trying to find more than just his game, though; he was trying to find a flame.
With an interest rekindled, Duval made his first start at the U.S. Open. It was a questionable return, given the extreme conditions at Shinnecock, but he wanted to play. And so he did.
He shot 83-82 and missed the cut. He then missed the cut at The International, near his new home outside of Denver, Colo., and did the same at the PGA Championship.
But under the watchful eye of instructor Hank Haney, he seems to be gradually growing as comfortable on the course as he is off it, being a new husband and stepfather.
He's gone from a strong grip to a neutral one, and that's forced some positive swing changes, which were made necessary due to years of injuries.
Hes made two of his last three cuts, including a tie for 13th at the Deutsche Bank Championship for his best finish since the 2002 Invensys Classic at Las Vegas.
Hes still ranked 463rd in the world. But thats just a number. And Duval made it clear that hes not one to focus on rank or statistics.
His focus is clear: winning.
As he waited to be interviewed Wednesday, he stared with his trademark sunglasses into the camera. The first question came, and he answered before the question mark could be attached.
Winning the golf tournament, of course, he said, anticipating what he felt a successful performance would be this week.
Ive played enough golf, Ive competed enough out here that I know what it takes to win a golf tournament. And Im hitting the ball plenty well enough to win.