Duval on Course in Life Golf

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SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- It takes a lot to get a golfer to stop preparing for a major tournament. Quite a few did just that Wednesday when David Duval walked by the practice green at Shinnecock Hills.
 
Fellow players stopped and watched him go by and some fans started applauding as the 32-year-old headed to register on the final practice day before the U.S. Open begins.
 
Duval was back.
 
When he tees off at 7:40 a.m. Thursday, Duval will be playing a competitive round for the first time since he withdrew from a tournament in Japan in November.
 
'I didn't really know when I would play again. I just felt at some point I would feel like I was ready to go, just play and have some fun,' he said Wednesday. 'A lot of the thing that's been missing for me for a long time has been the enjoyment of being out here.'
 
The only player to be ranked No. 1 in the world besides Tiger Woods over the last five years, Duval won the British Open in 2001. That was two years after he shot a 59 in the final round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. It all seems a long time ago.
 
'It just kind of hit me Saturday night that I just wanted to go play, for no other reason than I just felt like I was ready to go have some fun and enjoy it again. Up to that point, I hadn't wanted to play.'
 
Duval's voice cracked several times and his eyes that were usually hidden behind his trademark sunglasses welled although he never cried. The emotion was obvious.
 
'I was in tears when I called home Saturday night when I was out golfing and said that I was going to New York and I've been in and out of tears ever since,' he said.
 
Duval last played in a PGA Tour event in Las Vegas last October when he missed the cut. He said he made his decision to play this weekend on the cart path near the fourth tee at Cherry Hills Country Club, a former U.S. Open venue near Duval's new home, Denver.
 
He called his wife Susie, whom he married on March 6.
 
'Since I made the decision Saturday night to come, I've been nervous,' Duval said. 'Susie has been saying all along that she was feeling that this was where I was going to play, and I didn't know it. I really didn't know it.'
 
This tournament and his new family -- they have three children -- are a great combination for Duval.
 
'In some sense to be honest with you, I haven't missed it,' he said. 'I haven't missed being away, but I just wanted to play this week. The U.S. Open is a very hard thing for me to miss and I was anxious for wife and my family to see me and see what I do, to see the atmosphere of golf.'
 
Duval said he feels pretty good physically and he has been playing four or five times a week without practicing.
 
On Wednesday, Duval played a practice round at Shinnecock, a wind-swept, tight course where he finished tied for 28th in the 1995 Open as PGA Tour rookie. He played with Fred Couples and Davis Love III, fellow pros he said he talked to numerous times during his absence.
 
Duval was far from perfect during the up-and-down practice round, which got off to a shaky start, but he was back on the course getting ready for a major again.
 
Duval's first tee shot went left and struck a member of the gallery. When the ball left his club face, a woman near the tee yelled to him and expressed the feelings of a lot of people.
 
'Welcome back, David!'
 
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