Duval Has Found His Happiness

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David Duval, it must be agreed, is a different man today. The guy who will go to the first tee at the Buick Invitational this week is not the same man who began the season in 2004. A new home, a new lifestyle, a new outlook has radically transformed this gentle, if not always placid, man who just happens to play golf for a living.
 
Its a Duval who, of course, is beginning his 11th year as a pro. Its a Duval who has ridden the ultimate roller coaster, achieving the world No. 1 ranking in 1999, then falling out of the top 200 last year.
 
But its a Duval whos finally fully at peace with himself. His marriage in March of last year started it, and the instant family of three children cemented it. He moved from the Jacksonville area to Denver, where wife Susie had lived previously. And now, at age 33, a whole lot has changed in his life ' not the least of which is golf.
 
Duval has been a tormented soul forever, it seems. In the beginning, it was the death of a 12-year-old brother which knocked the props out from under 9-year-old David ' a death that occurred even though David had given bone marrow to his stricken brother. His parents suffered through a messy divorce, causing Duval to withdraw further. A breakup of his own engagement a few years ago caused more heartbreak. When the sudden, baffling disappearance of his golf game began in 2002, many people felt it might have been the final act.
 
Instead, Duval found peace and maturity in his new-found family life. Suddenly, winning a golf tournament didnt seem nearly as important as it once did. After spending a couple of years in frustration with the sport, David now has actually missed playing.
 
I think I would just really like to enjoy this atmosphere again, he said this week in San Diego.
 
I've done it a long time. I worked, I played junior golf, all the things that the majority of the people out here have done. And maybe it's my personality, maybe it's not, I don't know. But I've never, as you all know, dealt with the things that go with it very well - being No. 1 and those things.
 
Duval has always been extremely intelligent. I will never forget the NEC tournament back in 97 when he kept me waiting for over an hour for an interview while he read his newspaper. He was very polite when I asked him if I could ask him a couple of questions. Sure, he said, if I didnt mind waiting for a few minutes while he finished reading the paper.
 
I didnt mind, of course. But then he sat down in the locker room and proceeded to absorb every story of the front section, much more intensely that I imagined any person would. And when he finished, sure enough, he arose and said, OK, lets do it!
 
And that intelligence has helped him pull out of his recent tailspin, even if it has not yet made him a standout golfer again.
 
Success is measured certainly at different levels in different ways, Duval said. If you play as well as you can and really don't make mistakes and get beat, you have a successful week. And if you base it solely on position or outcome of the golf tournament, I don't know if you could ever have any satisfaction.

And golf is still a most enjoyable pastime to him, even though at times it hasnt been a totally enjoyable occupation. And the games ups and downs have brought a new appreciation as he contemplates the hours of ball-beating his fellow pros have done in practice.
 
I enjoy playing golf, I really do, said Duval. In some strange way, although I had not played much in the last 18 months or so, it's been some of the more enjoyable times because it just goes to show you how hard the game can be.
 
And you know, it makes you appreciate the skills the players have and the things they work on, the things they do - because it's just a very, very hard game.
 
And he fully understands now ' though he didnt at the time - the hard work that David Duval put in just trying to learn all the games nuances.
 
The answer would be yes, I guess I do, he admitted. I felt like I appreciated it then. However, looking back on it, I realize that it wasn't as easy as it seemed. There's a lot of work involved.
 
Although it's commented about some of the players how they worked and how many practice balls they may hit, it's probably never really understood how hard they work and what they are doing to get to where they are and to achieve those goals, the sacrifices that are made.
 
For the moment, Duval will take his triumphs in small doses. Hes crawling again when it comes to the skills needed to compete at the highest level. He needs to crawl before he walks, walk before he runs, run before he wins. At the moment, he says his goals are very modest ' What I would like to do is just try to feel like I really have a command of what I'm trying to do.
 
He plans to play a full season again of approximately 20 events. He has already mapped the first month or two ' he will play next at Pebble Beach and at the Nissan Open. The reincarnation of David Duval has begun, and he will never be the player he once was ' even if he achieves what he once did.
 
Like anybody out here, I put more into it than I should have. I put more value in it than I should have, says Duval. But I obviously felt like I was - like the lower end of that of the players.
 
I really don't know how it will work or how I can do it, because I don't really feel like I could ever give back to this game and the people involved what it's given to me. But I'd like to at least start chipping it way at that, because it's blessed me more than I could have ever dreamed.
 
At 33, he realizes that his time of winning might possibly have passed him by. But David Duval may finally have gotten this thing exactly right.
 
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