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David Duval filled with new confidence

David Duval, who considered quitting the game after tumbling out of the world's top 400, believes his swing is superior to when he was golf's top-ranked player.

The former Open champion has worked hard to restore his love for the sport and expects to return to the winner's circle this year.

"I feel like my swing and my golf game is better than it's been, certainly in many years," Duval told reporters on Wednesday as he prepared for this week's Buick Invitational.

"Nobody wants to seem to hear, but I dare say it's better than it ever was.

"Over the course of the last few years, I've learned a lot about what it takes for me to play well, what truly are my fundamentals," added the 35-year-old American.

"I think having such a good grasp of that has made me that much more confident and comfortable in what I'm doing.

"I feel like I'm playing great again. There's a desire to play and actually compete again. I just need to do the scoring things that add up over four days."

Duval, who has not won a title since the 2001 Dunlop Phoenix in Japan, said his family had been a prime factor behind his decision to stay in golf.

"I think there's a part of me that wants to show my family the golfer that I was eight years ago before they knew me," the former world number one said.

"And I'd certainly like for my newest little addition to see me play at some point as much as anything."

Duval, who eclipsed Tiger Woods as the game's leading player on March 28 1999, has struggled with his swing and a series of injuries since 2001.

His world ranking plummeted, he made only one cut in 20 starts on the 2005 PGA Tour and, for a while, he came close to giving up the game.

He decided to persevere with tournament golf, however, and began to make positive strides after his life away from the course gained stability with his marriage to Susie Persichitte. He is now a proud father to four children.

His gradual improvement was reflected by three top-25 finishes on last year's Tour, including a tie for 16th at the U.S. Open.

"I expected to do a lot better than I did but, at the same time, I was as intent upon putting the pieces back together and restoring my fundamentals," he said.

"That was the biggest kind of goal for me. I was certainly quite tired at the end of last year but I was able, after two months' break, to kind of put the pieces together."

Duval, who won the 2001 British Open at Royal Lytham, tied for 39th at last week's Bob Hope Classic in Palm Desert, California after opening with a flawless 67.

"(This year) I expect to win golf tournaments," he added.

Duval, a 13-times winner on the PGA Tour, is scheduled to tee off at to tee off at 1450 GMT in Thursday's opening round at Torrey Pines.

January 25, 2007

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