The Curious Case of David Duval

By Jay CoffinNovember 3, 2009, 10:00 am

Project 99I was there when ... it all fell apart for David Duval.

First thought was, “Ouch.” Second thought was, “This man couldn’t possibly have shot 59.”

I was there at the 2003 PGA Championship when David Duval couldn’t hit the ball into the ocean if he had one toe in the water. Yet, that same man, four years prior at the Bob Hope Classic, played so well over 18 holes that he wasn’t capable of hitting an approach shot outside 10 feet. Two years earlier he collected his first major triumph at the Open Championship.

That sums up the curious case of David Duval. His game has been both magnificent and manic.

It’s no shock that Duval won the 1999 Bob Hope Classic, it’s just surprising how he won it. He entered the event having won eight of his previous 27 tournaments and was within a frog hair of Tiger Woods’ No. 1 ranking.

David Duval
David Duval watches his eagle putt drop for 59. (Getty Images)
Although Duval was on people’s minds as a contender early in the week, those thoughts faded entering the fifth and final round at PGA West’s Palmer Course when he was seven shots behind leader Steve Pate. Even a nifty front-nine 31 didn’t do too much to get people in the California desert worked up.

Three consecutive birdies to open the inward nine changed the tune dramatically. Suddenly, Pate and fellow contender John Huston had company. Television producers were sent scrambling to make sure they were prepared to follow every shot from Duval, and news of the heroics had spread among the gallery creating a sudden feeling that something special was about to happen.

With 59 on Duval’s mind, he closed stronger than New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera, going 2-3-3-3 over the final four holes.

The final hole produced some of the best theater in golf history. After a monstrous drive of 320 yards on the par-5 home hole, Duval had 226 yards to a back pin guarded by water on the left. He smoked a 5-iron that carried some 210 yards and ran past the hole to 6 feet. Duval calmly rolled in the eagle to shoot 59 and let out a series of fist-pumps that were forceful, yet not quite Tiger Woods-like only because they lacked practice, not emotion.

“There it is. Fifty-nine. The best final round. Ever,” was the call from ABC’s Mike Tirico.

“It was an easy 59,” said playing partner Jeff Maggert, who, by comparison, chopped it around in 66. “I’ve never seen anyone hit the ball that close for an entire round. It was sort of like a no-hitter. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing.”

Duval, 27 years old at the time, hit 11-of-13 fairways, 17-of-18 greens, had 23 putts, made 11 birdies, one eagle and hit approach shots inside of 5 feet on half of the 18 holes.

“I was more excited about the score than having the chance to win the golf tournament,” Duval said that day, Jan. 24, 1999. “I certainly had aspirations of winning, but the 59 was first and foremost in my mind.”

The year continued to be great for Duval. He won four times before the Masters, including The Players Championship on the same day his father, Bob, won on the Champions Tour. A victory the week before the Masters gave Duval the top spot in the world ranking, supplanting Woods’ stranglehold on the position for the previous 41 weeks. Duval held the position for the next three months.

Each of the next couple years got progressively worse, back problems being the biggest culprit.

What I saw in 2003 defies explanation for myriad reasons.

Duval arrived at Oak Hill for the PGA Championship in the midst of his worst season on Tour having only made four cuts in 18 starts. He hadn’t sniffed anything close to a top-20 finish.

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His back continued to give him fits, the result of years of wear and tear from the torque of his golf swing. Accordingly, Duval had developed poor swing habits trying to compensate and that was the beginning of his downward spiral.

It’s not overstating it to say that Duval played well to shoot 80 in the first round on a day when a massive widespread power outage affected 45 million people in eight states and 10 million more in Canada.

A man who once played lights-out to shoot 59, was now shooting 80 in a town without lights. Go figure.

Day 2 produced more gore than most horror flicks. Duval hit his opening tee shot 50 yards left. The collective “oohs” and “awws” from the Rochester, N.Y., gallery were both loud and sad. It was difficult to watch.

After another atrocious tee shot on the fifth hole, Duval had enough and withdrew, citing a lower back injury that appeared fine 24 hours earlier. He was 6 over after four holes with a bogey, double bogey and a triple bogey. In 22 holes he had made four doubles and a triple.

For the year, his scoring average was a skosh under 74, a far cry from the 69.1 average he collected in 1999.

I was there to witness Duval’s lowest of the low, and it was as memorable as it was horrific. It did, however, make it even more impossible to imagine what it took for Double D to shoot golf’s magic number.

At the time in 1999, scribes were writing that Duval’s 59 would get better with age, especially if he began to collect majors at what insiders believed would be a rapid pace. Well, it got better with age. Not because he got better, only, sadly, because he got much worse.

David Duval

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 12:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch.


Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 12:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.

Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.

“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.

Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.

“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”

It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.


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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.