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Pieces of the Puzzle Coming Together

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PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- He cant find a fairway, and hes missed half of his greens. Yet theres that look in David Duvals eyes and sincerity in his smile.
 
Despite two erratic rounds at Riviera Country Club, Duval is in solid standing in the Nissan Open.
 
Hes 3-under-par; five shots back of midway leader Charles Howell III.
 
Duval has chipped in three times in two days, has made a couple of putts in excess of 40 feet, and generally grinded his way into contention.
 
Just silly things that just hold a round together and turn what could have been a poor day into a very acceptable day, he said of his stroke-saving shots.
 
But theres more to it than that, more than just good fortune.
 
It probably goes back to attitude, he said. You are kind of a little more patient, a little more into what you're doing. And that is probably what has been the difference for me these two days as opposed to the first couple of events I have played in.
 
Duval has certainly had reason over the past year and a half to lose his patience.
 
He is winless since his first major triumph in the 2001 British Open. Last year, he missed eight cuts ' as many as the previous four years combined, had only two top-10s and finished 80th on the money list ' his first time ever outside the top 11 since joining the PGA Tour in 1995.
 
Add that to a injury, a highly publicized legal battle with Titleist and an even more impersonal intrusion into his breakup with his long-time finance, and 2002 was a year best forgotten.
 
Duval won 13 times in 34 starts in the late 1990s. He was the last man to hold the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking before Woods took the reigns. Hes now ranked 29th in the world.
 
Hes not only been bypassed by the likes of Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh when it comes to Tigers chief rivals, hes no longer mentioned in the same breath.
 
But that doesnt seem to bother Duval.
 
I have played the game well for quite some time; I enjoy watching the game played well too, he said. I give my respect to those players who are playing like that. And it is enjoyable to watch somebody execute the game so well, whether it be Tiger or how Ernie has started the year.
 
I am comfortable with where I am and what I have done so far. I am pretty young still. And I just dont have that envy that I think is prevalent out here on tour.
 
But dont confuse Duvals contentment with complacency.
 
He says the fire still burns behind those wraparound sunglasses. If there is any change, its in his focus. For years, Duval said he was wrapped up in winning a major championship. I bought into the whole thing, he commented.
 
In turn, he lost sight on the importance of the other 22 or so events in which he competed each year.
 
I was lucky enough to win one of the major championships. But I stopped winning the other tournaments. And that is not fun when you are out here to win and compete. You got to really be focused on where you are, where you are playing.
 
Duval is playing in his third event of the season this week. He missed the cut at the Bob Hope and Pebble Beach, and has spent as much time on the ski slopes as on the golf course.
 
He was in contention in last years Nissan Open, but suffered a bout of food poisoning Saturday night that cost him 16 pounds and forced him to withdraw on the fourth hole Sunday.
 
I had a chance to win the golf tournament, so it was disappointing because I sure love playing the golf course here, he said.
 
He may have a chance to atone this year. Despite hitting 53 percent of his greens in regulation and only 39 percent of his fairways, he has scrambled well enough to better his two-day playing companion, Woods, by a shot.
 
Ironically, I havent hit the golf ball quite as well as I did my two tournaments where I missed the cuts. However, I got back to the essence of the game and scored well, he said.
 
So I am really excited about that. I feel like if I can get a little bit sharper, then I will be fine.
 
The pieces are there, Duval says, he just has to put together the puzzle.
 
Related Links
  • Full-field scores from the Nissan Open
  • Full coverage of the Nissan Open