Duval On a Long Strange Trip

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I'm not sure how or why, but David Duval has become something of a lightning
rod in golf for people who have the need to assign blame -or at least
meaning - to everything that happens in the game.
 
I mean, so far in 2005 on the PGA Tour, Stuart Appleby has defended successfully in Maui, making him the king of Kapalua for now. Vijay Singh has gotten his first win of the year under his belt at the Sony Open, which will, for now, keep people from wondering what might be wrong with the world's No. 1 player when and if he doesn't play well every single week.
 
Speaking of which, one week after Sony, Tiger Woods won his first full-field stroke play event since the Cialis Western Open in July of 2003. Those same wonderers were brought to bay on the subject of the notion that Woods had completely lost his swing, if not his game. Now Woods is chasing Singh for the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking. And, in some cosmic sense, there is a feeling that all is right again in the golf universe.
 
Certainly everything is right in the universe inhabited by Justin Leonard. Sunday at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Leonard cruised to his first Tour win since 2003.
 
Last year, Leonard finished outside the top-30 on the money list after nine straight seasons in that rarefied air. Plus, he shot 75 on the final day of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straights and lost to Singh in a playoff. It left Leonard with an 0-2 record in major championship overtimes.
 
Leonard appears to be back and the former self-confessed 'neat freak' looks to have his house in order. His coach, the estimable Butch Harmon, was predicting a big year for Leonard even before last week. Nike Golf has signed Leonard to a deal that looks like a win-win for both sides. And Leonard's wife, Amanda, is pregnant with the young couple's second child.
 
Leonard is 32. Duval is 33. They are comtemporaries and their golf curves are trending in opposite directions.
 
The single most astonishing and disturbing statistic of 2005 is the fact that Duval was 53 shots behind leader Joe Ogilvie after 54 holes at the Hope. This including a third-round 85 in which Duval made three triple bogeys in a row. This is the same David Duval who fired a 59 in the final round to win the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic six short years ago.
 
Or is it the same David Duval?
 
All kinds of inquiring minds want to know. The critics are insisting Duval should keep his game in the garage until he can get his competitive engine up and running again. Duval's friends say Duval will recover from this and he will do it in his own sweet time.
 
When he speaks publicly, which isn't all that often these days, Duval makes it clear that he loves the game a lot more than he loves the life of the Tour pro. Certain of his brethren resent that kind of candor. Others admire it.
 
The fact remains that we shouldn't be surprised if Duval's best days in golf are behind him. Nor should we be surprised if he brings it all the way back and wins another major championship in the next five years.
 
Most of all, don't be surprised if the best days that lay ahead for David Duval, a fiercely independent thinker, don't have anything at all to do with golf.
 
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