In 1999 Duval became the first player since Johnny Miller in 1974 to win four times before The Masters. Before the season ended, Duval would ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Then everything seemed to go into reverse. In 2000 he missed 10 weeks with a back injury and won just once. In 2001 it was a wrist injury. He recovered long enough to capture his first and only major, The Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
By 2002 Duval was in rapid rewind. Then there was the breakup of a long relationship with a steady girlfriend. Last year the back problems returned in force. He also suffered from intermittent bouts of vertigo. He made just four cuts in 20 starts.
A million different people had a million different solutions. To Duvals credit, he insisted his priorities were in the right place. He always said there were things in life more important than golf. All of which brings us to now:
There is light at the end of David Duvals dark tunnel. On March 6, the Saturday of the Ford Championship at Doral, he is scheduled to be married. His fianc brings three children from a previous marriage. Duvals people believe this will provide a stability that has been missing. The hope is that marriage and family will do for Duvals happiness what it did for Fred Couples, who married a woman with two children whom Couples lovingly dotes upon.
And the golf?
Duval still hasnt made his first start this year. Sources say he is in no hurry. He is once again working with swing guru David Leadbetter, trying to rediscover the swing that worked so well for him in 1999. He is letting the bad back heal on its own terms.
And, according to his people, he isnt sure when he will tee it up again in a PGA Tour event. The British Open victory makes him exempt through the end of the 2006 season. Dont be surprised if Duval tees it up in Florida (the Honda Classic is a candidate for his first start.) Dont be surprised if he doesnt enter a tournament until after the Masters.
David Duval has always done things his way. At his pace. He reads difficult books. He doesnt suffer fools gladly. And if he decides that 2004 is the year he works on marriage more than golf, thats what he will do.
Meanwhile, sources say Nike and Oakley, the two companies with which Duval earns the bulk of his endorsement monies, are being blessedly patient. That is not always the case in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately commercial culture.
Apparently they believe the return of David Duval is worth waiting for. They are not alone.
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