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David Duval continues to struggle

David Duval admits he's been in a fog lately, but that didn't explain what happened at Bay Hill Thursday.

"I hit the ball pretty darned solid," he said.

The problem was he hit it 79 times. Golf is supposed to be a mystery, but Duval may go down as the D.B. Cooper of the PGA Tour.

Cooper hijacked a plane 32 years ago, got a $200,000 ransom and jumped into the night, never to be seen again.

Duval hijacked the game from Tiger Woods, shot a 59, won a British Open and vanished. The difference is Cooper had a parachute.

All Duval has is questions. How do you go from Mr. 59 to Mr. 79? It's one of the most popular and definitely the most perplexing topics in golf today.

"I'm certainly banging my head against the wall, wanting to play better," Duval said.

Even that doesn't explain his aching head. He came down with vertigo two weeks ago at Doral, and promptly shot an 80 and missed his third cut of the year.

"Kind of a little foggy, a little groggy," is how Duval explained the feeling.

He said it didn't bother him Thursday, so the 79 can be attributed to… pick one:

Too much snowboarding. A broken swing. A broken romance. Lingering Tiger phenomenon. Too much introspection. Too much solitude. Nobody to turn to but himself.

It's enough to make a guy's head spin, even without the vertigo. Duval was the world's last No. 1 golfer before Woods took permanent ownership. Last year, he was No. 80.

Duval went through about that many drivers, trying to find one that wasn't allergic to the fairway. Instead of a 14th club, his caddy should have carried a psychiatrist couch.

"Mr. Free-fall," is what one prominent pro called him.

Great golfers have faded, but few have vanished so profoundly in their prime. One thing could never explain it, and we sure can't do it here. But having people try is all part of being David Duval.

"I don't see the fascination in it," he said.

But he's on the inside looking out. From the gallery, that RoboGolfer style always made Duval an alluring subject. He's smart and has always said what he thinks, like when he first proposed Ryder Cup golfer get paid, and the money go to charity.

He was ripped for being greedy, though why shouldn't some of the Ryder gold go to charity? Duval's persecution complex hasn't gotten any better as the world tries to figure out what's gone wrong.

He's been criticized for spending too much time on his snowboard and mountain bike, though he was pedaling and slaloming just as hard when he was Mr. 59.

"I have no less desire to play well than I did three years ago," Duval said.

He said he's hitting the ball solidly, but not scoring well. That's especially frustrating for an analytical type, but it's not going to make Duval jump out of a plane.

"I've had great success to this point. And I'll have great success again," he said. "Right now, I'm having a rough spot."

He can't make people understand he's not the tortured soul he comes off as. But understanding Duval has never been easy. He was a mystery wrapped in a riddle hidden by Oakley sunglasses when he was flying high. Now the mystery deepens with every round.

"I expect to hit good shots," Duval said. "I expect to play well."

All he knows to do is show up today and keep banging his head against the wall, figuring the fog eventually has to go away.

 

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