The Curious Case of David Duval

By Jay CoffinNovember 3, 2009, 10:00 am

Project 99I was there when ... it all fell apart for David Duval.

First thought was, “Ouch.” Second thought was, “This man couldn’t possibly have shot 59.”

I was there at the 2003 PGA Championship when David Duval couldn’t hit the ball into the ocean if he had one toe in the water. Yet, that same man, four years prior at the Bob Hope Classic, played so well over 18 holes that he wasn’t capable of hitting an approach shot outside 10 feet. Two years earlier he collected his first major triumph at the Open Championship.

That sums up the curious case of David Duval. His game has been both magnificent and manic.

It’s no shock that Duval won the 1999 Bob Hope Classic, it’s just surprising how he won it. He entered the event having won eight of his previous 27 tournaments and was within a frog hair of Tiger Woods’ No. 1 ranking.

David Duval
David Duval watches his eagle putt drop for 59. (Getty Images)
Although Duval was on people’s minds as a contender early in the week, those thoughts faded entering the fifth and final round at PGA West’s Palmer Course when he was seven shots behind leader Steve Pate. Even a nifty front-nine 31 didn’t do too much to get people in the California desert worked up.

Three consecutive birdies to open the inward nine changed the tune dramatically. Suddenly, Pate and fellow contender John Huston had company. Television producers were sent scrambling to make sure they were prepared to follow every shot from Duval, and news of the heroics had spread among the gallery creating a sudden feeling that something special was about to happen.

With 59 on Duval’s mind, he closed stronger than New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera, going 2-3-3-3 over the final four holes.

The final hole produced some of the best theater in golf history. After a monstrous drive of 320 yards on the par-5 home hole, Duval had 226 yards to a back pin guarded by water on the left. He smoked a 5-iron that carried some 210 yards and ran past the hole to 6 feet. Duval calmly rolled in the eagle to shoot 59 and let out a series of fist-pumps that were forceful, yet not quite Tiger Woods-like only because they lacked practice, not emotion.

“There it is. Fifty-nine. The best final round. Ever,” was the call from ABC’s Mike Tirico.

“It was an easy 59,” said playing partner Jeff Maggert, who, by comparison, chopped it around in 66. “I’ve never seen anyone hit the ball that close for an entire round. It was sort of like a no-hitter. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing.”

Duval, 27 years old at the time, hit 11-of-13 fairways, 17-of-18 greens, had 23 putts, made 11 birdies, one eagle and hit approach shots inside of 5 feet on half of the 18 holes.

“I was more excited about the score than having the chance to win the golf tournament,” Duval said that day, Jan. 24, 1999. “I certainly had aspirations of winning, but the 59 was first and foremost in my mind.”

The year continued to be great for Duval. He won four times before the Masters, including The Players Championship on the same day his father, Bob, won on the Champions Tour. A victory the week before the Masters gave Duval the top spot in the world ranking, supplanting Woods’ stranglehold on the position for the previous 41 weeks. Duval held the position for the next three months.

Each of the next couple years got progressively worse, back problems being the biggest culprit.

What I saw in 2003 defies explanation for myriad reasons.

Duval arrived at Oak Hill for the PGA Championship in the midst of his worst season on Tour having only made four cuts in 18 starts. He hadn’t sniffed anything close to a top-20 finish.

Related Content

  • Baggs: The 1999 PGA Championship
  • Project '99: The Unforgettable Year

His back continued to give him fits, the result of years of wear and tear from the torque of his golf swing. Accordingly, Duval had developed poor swing habits trying to compensate and that was the beginning of his downward spiral.

It’s not overstating it to say that Duval played well to shoot 80 in the first round on a day when a massive widespread power outage affected 45 million people in eight states and 10 million more in Canada.

A man who once played lights-out to shoot 59, was now shooting 80 in a town without lights. Go figure.

Day 2 produced more gore than most horror flicks. Duval hit his opening tee shot 50 yards left. The collective “oohs” and “awws” from the Rochester, N.Y., gallery were both loud and sad. It was difficult to watch.

After another atrocious tee shot on the fifth hole, Duval had enough and withdrew, citing a lower back injury that appeared fine 24 hours earlier. He was 6 over after four holes with a bogey, double bogey and a triple bogey. In 22 holes he had made four doubles and a triple.

For the year, his scoring average was a skosh under 74, a far cry from the 69.1 average he collected in 1999.

I was there to witness Duval’s lowest of the low, and it was as memorable as it was horrific. It did, however, make it even more impossible to imagine what it took for Double D to shoot golf’s magic number.

At the time in 1999, scribes were writing that Duval’s 59 would get better with age, especially if he began to collect majors at what insiders believed would be a rapid pace. Well, it got better with age. Not because he got better, only, sadly, because he got much worse.

David Duval

Getty Images

Watch: Highlights from Tiger's Friday 71 at Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 23, 2018, 8:12 pm

Tiger Woods got caught in the Bear Trap on Friday, but bit back with a late birdie to sign for 1-over 71 on a difficult day at PGA National, where he sits four off the lead heading into the weekend at the Honda Classic.

Woods started at even par in Round 2 and began Friday with a bogey at the par-4 second, before getting that stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 fourth:



Following four consecutive pars, Woods birdied the par-4 ninth to turn in 1-under 34.



At 1 under for the tournament, Woods was tied for 10th place, three off the lead, when he began the back nine at PGA National. He remained there with this enthusiastic par save at the par-4 11th.

Tiger poured in three more pars at was just two off the 3-under pace when he rinsed his tee shot at the par-3 15th, leading to a double bogey. He dropped another shot and fell to 2 over when he three-putted 16.

But he wouldn't leave the Bear Trap at a total loss. At the diabolical par-3 17th, Woods wowed the jam-packed stands with a flagged 5-iron iron and a 12-foot putt for birdie, pulling him back to plus-1 for the week.

Woods would go on to par the closing hole, leaving him in a tie for 14th with two rounds to play.

Getty Images

Defending champ Fowler misses cut at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:14 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The roles might be reversed this weekend for Rickie Fowler.

Last year, when he won at PGA National, Fowler was greeted behind the 18th green by Justin Thomas, one of his Jupiter neighbors. Thomas had missed the cut in his hometown event but drove back to the tournament to congratulate Fowler on his fourth PGA Tour title.

It’s Fowler who will be on the sidelines this weekend, after missing the Honda Classic cut following rounds of 71-76.  


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


“I haven’t been swinging it great the last month and a half,” he said afterward. “Obviously playing in the wind, it will pick you apart even more.”

After a tie for fourth at Kapalua, Fowler has missed two of his last three cuts. In between, at the Phoenix Open, he coughed up the 54-hole lead and tied for 11th.

Fowler said he’s been struggling with commitment and trust on the course.

“It’s close,” he said. “Just a little bit off, and the wind is going to make it look like you’re a terrible weekend golfer.”

Asked if he’d return the favor for Thomas, if he were to go and win, Fowler smiled and said: “Of course.”  

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:00 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


Getty Images

Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role

By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2018, 6:57 pm

In this week’s edition, Jack Nicklaus makes the argument, again, for an equipment rollback, Tiger Woods gets halfway to his Ryder Cup goal and Paul Lawrie laments slow play ... in Europe.

Made Cut

Captain’s corner. Last week Tiger Woods coyly figured he could do both, play and be a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. On Tuesday, he made it halfway to his goal.

U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods and Steve Stricker vice captains for this year’s matches, joining Davis Love III on the team golf cart.

Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double-header is now largely up to him and how his most recent comeback from injury progresses, but one way or another Furyk wanted Tiger in his team room.

“What Tiger really has brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of X's and O's,” Furyk said. “He's done a really good job of pairing players together in foursomes and fourball. When you look at our team room and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”

Woods is currently 104th on the U.S. points list, but the qualification process is designed for volatility, with this year’s majors worth twice as many points. With Tiger’s improved play it’s not out of the question that he gets both, a golf cart and a golf bag, for this year’s matches.

#MSDStrong. Every week on Tour players, officials and fans come together to support a charity of some sort, but this week’s Honda Classic has a more personal impact for Nicholas Thompson.

Thompson graduated from nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and last week’s horrific shooting there inspired the former Tour member to work with tournament organizers and find a way to help the victims.

Officials handed out 1,600 maroon ribbons to volunteers to honor the victims; and Thompson and his wife, who is also a Stoneman Douglas graduate, donated another 500 with the letters “MSD” on them for players, wives and caddies.

Thompson also planned to donate 3,100 rubber bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.

“I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson told PGATour.com. “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”

The Tour makes an impact on communities every week, but some tournaments are more emotional than others.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Golden moment. Jack Nicklaus has never been shy about expressing his thoughts on modern equipment and how far today’s professionals are hitting the golf ball, but this week the Golden Bear revealed just how involved he may be in what is increasingly looking like an equipment rollback of some sort.

During a recent dinner with USGA CEO Mike Davis, Nicklaus discussed the distance debate.

“Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”

The USGA and R&A are scheduled to release their annual distance report before the end of the month, but after the average driving distance jumped nearly 3 yards last year on Tour – and nearly 7 yards on the Web.com Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.

Stay tuned.

Geographically undesirable. Although this will likely be the final year the Tour’s Florida swing is undercut by the WGC-Mexico Championship, which will be played next week, the event’s impact on this year’s fields is clear.

The tee sheet for this week’s Honda Classic, which had become one of the circuit’s deepest stops thanks to an influx of Europeans gearing up for the Masters, includes just three players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and none from top three. By comparison, only the Sony Open and CareerBuilder Challenge had fewer top players in 2018.

On Monday at a mandatory meeting, players were given a rough outline of the 2018-19 schedule, which features some dramatic changes including the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shifting back to March, and numerous sources say the Mexico stop will move to the back end of the West Coast swing and be played after the Genesis Open.

That should help fields in the Sunshine State regain some luster, but it does nothing to change the fact that this year’s Florida swing is, well, flat.


Missed Cut

West Coast woes. Of all the highlights from this year’s West Coast swing, a run that included overtime victories for Patton Kizzire (Sony Open), Jon Rahm (CareerBuilder Challenge), Jason Day (Farmers Insurance Open) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open), it will be what regularly didn’t happen that Cut Line remembers.

J.B. Holmes endured the wrath of social media for taking an eternity - it was actually 4 minutes, 10 seconds - to hit his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, but in fairness to Holmes he’s only a small part of a larger problem.

Without any weather delays, Rounds 1 and 2 were not completed on schedule last week in Los Angeles because of pace of play, and the Tour is even considering a reduction in field size at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to avoid similar schedule issues.

But all this seems to miss the point. Smaller fields aren’t the answer; rules that recognize and penalize slow play are the only solution.

Tweet of the week: @PaulLawriegolf (Paul Lawrie) “Getting pretty fed up playing with guys who cheat the system by playing as slow as they want until referee comes then hit it on the run to make sure they don't get penalized. As soon as ref [is] gone it’s back to taking forever again. We need a better system.”

It turns out slow play isn’t a uniquely Tour/West Coast issue, as evidenced by the Scot’s tweet on Thursday from the Qatar Masters.