David Duval falls further
David Duval tapped in his 80th stroke of the day and took the long walk toward
the Oak Hill Country Club locker room. When he got there, he found a sepulcher
-- attendants were holding flashlights and candles, since the power was off.
He sat in the dark. These days he plays in the dark, his drives veering into
the rough left and right, into places that aren't acceptable on this particular
golf course. Duval beat 13 players and was beaten by 12 club pros in the first
round of the PGA Championship. There was a tunnel, but no light.
"I've grooved some bad habits," Duval said. "It's happened because
of injuries. How often did I used to hit it left? Maybe twice a year. But I've
been working on my game as hard as I ever have, I guess. Have the practice sessions
been encouraging? Sometimes. Lately, yes."
They say that golfers can feel the ingredients jelling before anybody sees
the cake, and Duval took comfort in several good drives Thursday. The numbers,
however, did not indicate the `01 British Open champion and the former No. 1 player
in the world has begun to put the brakes on an incomprehensible plunge.
Duval had three double-bogeys and no birdies, and he hit five fairways of 14.
His gallery applauded numbly for the most part and dwindled to a handful by
the time Duval, Fred Couples and Lee Janzen finished. Three kids in the first
row of the bleachers by the 15th green jeered when a red number "2"
went up beside Duval's name.
"No way!" one said. "That's gotta be the wrong color."
The mistake was corrected and the kids, who were clearly of drinking age, approved;
then Duval bogeyed the hole out of a bunker.
"I shudder to think what's going to be written about me tomorrow,"
Numbers can cut deeper than words.
Duval has made four cuts in 18 starts and has not finished higher than 28th.
His stroke average is 74.4. He is 194th in driving accuracy, 195th in greens in
regulation and, most surprisingly, 118th in driving distance.
He began the year with a 65 at the Bob Hope Classic. His next round was a 78.
He shot 62 at the Tour event in Avenel, Md. He had no other round under 73 at
His seven rounds in major tournaments this year are 79-83-78-72-83-78-80. Overall
he has had two 80s and three 83s.
It is possible to have followed Duval long enough to watch him shoot in the
50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. He shot a 59 on Sunday at the Bob Hope in `99. It is somewhat
harder to remember just how good he was, when he won four tournaments in both
`98 and `99 and when he spent 15 weeks on top of the world rankings.
Even then, Duval wasn't particularly high on the journalistic profession, and
he is no more enthralled with the golf technicians who claim to have isolated
his fatal flaws. One national magazine invited six instructors to critique Duval's
swing, frame by frame.
"I didn't see it, and I don't care what they said, but I heard about it,"
Duval said. "They said six different things. To me, that shows their incompetence.
When I was playing well, people talked about what a good swing I had, how simple
Now Tom Watson is freely criticizing Duval's strong grip, which brought a wordless
smile from Duval.
"Other than Tiger, who's the model, tell me what great player had a swing
that everybody thought was classic," Duval said. "Name one. Jack Nicklaus
had the flying elbow, Arnold Palmer lashed at the ball, Lee Trevino hockey-sticked
it, Watson went straight up and down with a reverse C. But all of them repeated
what they did and made it work for them."
With that, Duval stood up -- or tried to -- to show the proper setup position.
It took some effort.
"My back's not really hurt, it's just sore and tired right now,"
he said. "But I've had back problems. I've had shoulder problems. I hurt
He also had a long duel with vertigo, which, he now admits, made him feel "foggy."
"The problem is that I'm not standing up to the ball like I used to,"
he said. "I went to see Jack Lumpkin (a renowned teacher based in Sea Island,
Ga., who has counseled Davis Love III), and he calls it `standing beside the ball.'
I got into a thing where I'm standing behind it, and that causes me to tilt my
shoulders. And I got into doing that because of injuries. But Jack was good because
he believes in the way I play."
Duval also sees David Leadbetter and his dad, Bob, and has also asked Love
and Mark O'Meara for opinions. "Different sets of eyes," he said. "If
they all say the same thing, then maybe you're closer to finding an answer.
"I know that nobody hit the ball better than I did in `97, `98 and `99,"
he said softly. "And I did it with the same swing that everyone criticizes
But then Duval never has welcomed strange noses against the window of his life,
especially when they assume facts not in evidence -- or assume Duval is a Xerox
of the one-dimensional men around him.
"So I shot 80. So what?" he said. "Why should this affect my
life? I could scream and yell and throw clubs like some people do, and like some
people want me to do, but I'm not that way. It's just golf. I feel damn lucky.
I've got a great life. Nobody wants to believe that. I'm not playing good golf
right now, but it doesn't define my life."
He walked back out into the light. This morning Duval will try it again, try
to dodge the rough and catch a fourscore of golfers who, just yesterday, couldn't
hold a candle to him.
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