Not true, said David Duval on the Golf Channel Tuesday night. Hes living proof that practice doesnt always make it perfect. Sometimes it just grooves the imperfections.
Practice makes permanent ' not actually perfect, Duval said. What I was ingraining was bad habits.
I was making a lot of compensatory moves for my back, my shoulder, my wrist. So through the course of that, Im ingraining a bad setup, a bad address position, a bad takeaway. Those kind of things are hard to get out of.
Duval was the best player in the world, Tiger Woods notwithstanding, for several months in 1999. He was ranked No. 1 throughout the summer, became the first player since Johnny Miller in 74 to win four times before the Masters. He shot a 59 on the final day on the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. He made his first Ryder Cup team.
That year was the highest of highs, despite the fact that he didnt win his major ' the British Open ' until 2001. The lowest of lows has occurred this year - shooting in the 80s four times, falling to 137th in the Official World Rankings. What has happened in four years?
You probably need look no further than the injuries that have plagued him. The worst offender has been his back. He was sidelined for 10 weeks in 2000. In 2001 it was tendons in his wrist. In 2002, he was hit first by a severe stomach virus, then sustained a shoulder injury. This year, he was diagnosed with vertigo. And to top it all off, he has been bothered again this season by the back ' and his neck.
The problem may have been that he tried TOO much. He just couldnt accept, despite the injuries which forced him to slightly change his swing, that in 2002 this was David Duval. David Duval ' even an injured David Duval ' didnt perform at this low level.
Through the course of that year - although it wasn't as disastrous as this has been - I continued to work and put in the time and practice harder than I have in a long, long time, because I felt like I needed to, he said. But with the compensations he was making to swing without pain, he was practicing in all the wrong ways.
I continued to do that through the year, he said. And as the year started (2003) ' the same thing.
Actually not many people know, I threw my back again out last week on Friday, he revealed. And something like that, having worked so long now with (Columbus, Ga., back specialist) Tom Boers, having gone through this, it just doesn't happen. So what that means is it's been building up.
So I've had a problem with it six weeks again, eight weeks, who knows? What that did was put me back in those old habits of getting in here slouched and low, so that took the pressure off my back, and that just threw me off again.
And the vertigo has done considerable harm, much more than an intensely private man would care to suggest.
That floored me a little more than I let on, confessed Duval. That lasted up until a month ago. Not so much the dizzy spells I had, but kind of a hangover feeling, foggy head, you know. Not every day, but five days out of the week. So it lasted a little longer than I let people believe.
Those were all the physical things that Duval has faced. But its a mental blow that had him at a low for most of last year. His engagement to longtime girlfriend Julie McArthur ended last year, a breakup that was very difficult, he confesses. McArthur was Duvals constant companion who traveled everywhere with him. Suddenly she wasnt there. It was personally devastating.
Yeah. I mean, you know, I spent eight years with a really good woman, and anytime you break up after eight years - married, unmarried, engaged, whatever - it's a tough thing, said Duval. And to go from having a companion and a traveling mate to being solo again is certainly hard. You know, that's going to affect anyone.
Duval, though, has taken several steps to right the ship. The relationship is gone, he realizes. But professionally, there are measures which must be taken, steps which can be made to start the long, slow process back.
And he has started to climb back. For one thing, he has gotten several different viewpoints about what changes he should make to get his swing back to where it was. The injuries had a debilitating effect on his motion, but finally he is resolving that.
He has seen his old college coach, Puggy Blackmon. He has listened to his father, Champions Tour member Bob Duval. He has spent time with David Ledbetter. He currently is seeing Jack Lumpkin.
It was hard to take that initial step outside of what I'd say is the box - my box, you know, Duval said. But as you do that, and as you get comfortable with that, really the best way to approach it is not to take one step, it's to take two or three.
And when you see a few different people, and if they're saying the same things - wait a second, let's think about this. So obviously something is going on. You see different people, they're all saying different things, maybe they're not seeing the problem.
So seeing Jack, spending time with David, my caddie Mitch, a few of my other friends out here who play, most of them are addressing the same things, saying it was much more in the setup and address position than anything else.
Winning the British Open in 2001 was the ultimate, although it might have taken away some of his drive. Duval had won his major, and though there seemingly was so much more to accomplish, a major hurdle had already been circumvented. He admits that maybe he relaxed a little bit the remainder of that year. Then came the injuries, the broken engagement, and all the heartbreak that goes with playing poorly. But he feels he has the train on the tracks again. He is about to come out of this tailspin, he believes.
I think some of it can go back to achieving a lot of the very specific goals I set out, Duval said. And when you do that at age 30 - you're 30, you've achieved goals you've been striving for 20 years, you're going to be adrift a little bit. There's just no way around it.
I feel like I'm now on the right track. Certainly I've had times where I'm like, you know, I'm tired of this. I can't take it anymore. But that's just not me. When I get away, get away from the golf course, that's just not me. I want to face it head on and keep playing. I have a ball playing still.
Like I said, I've had some tough days this year, some bad scores and some really tough days and some terrible feelings when I've been playing. But, you know, I go home and I have a ball and I still love to do it.
Duval, after all, has had a wonderful life already. Hes won over $16 million. Hes traveled the world, enjoyed success at every stop, and hes still a young man in his 30s.
'I'm a lucky man, he said. I've achieved a lot of things. I've played for 10 years now and I've had 8 , nine great years.
Unfortunately in this game, you know, you can't choose your obstacles. In this life you can't choose your obstacles. So I have some pretty good obstacles to overcome at this moment.