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Duval on road to redemption

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Rob Hodgetts | 09:43 UK time, Saturday, 19 July 2008

If Greg Norman was the big story of the second day, not far behind was the tale of a certain David Duval.

The world number one in 1999 was Tiger Woods's nemesis, the iceman behind the wraparound shades and, to many, a golfing robot.

The American's critics accused him of being emotionless, but he won plenty of friends for his heartfelt speech after winning the Open at Royal Lytham in 2001.

Since then, though, Duval's decline has become legendary. He is now ranked 1087th in the world. But on Friday, he climbed back into Open contention once again.

The 36-year-old, who still sports the sunglasses for an eye condition and carries a bit more spare flesh than in his athletic-looking pomp, carded rounds of 73, 69 to reach the halfway stage two over and in a tie for fourth, two shots behind Norman and three behind leader KJ Choi.

"Greg Norman and David Duval are two great stories and the kind of heart-warming stories that everybody is pulling for," said world number two Phil Mickelson.

After his Lytham victory, his last as a professional, Duval struggled with back, wrist and shoulder injuries and also suffered from bouts of vertigo.

davidduval438pa.jpg

An inward-looking character, his confidence to hit golf balls plummeted and after a seemingly unstoppable slide down the rankings he took seven months out of the game in 2004, devoting himself to his new family.

His sponsors even poked fun at him a while back with a TV advert that showed some players rooting around in Woods's garage. Duval picks up an old club and takes a swing, smashing a car window. "Best contact you've made all year, Duval," says an animated head cover.

The Floridian, who is one of only three men to shoot 59 on the PGA Tour, has showed occasional glimpses of redemption since the dark days but has made just one cut in 11 tournaments this year.

But the two-time Ryder Cup player is less surprised at his form at Birkdale than the rest of the golfing world.

"I'm playing a lot better than my results have shown," he said. "It's amazing what a good bounce can do for you. I've been expecting to play quite well for some time, not exactly knowing when that might happen and it happens to come at my favourite golf tournament.

"What has made it click is the work I have been putting in and the time I have been using to practice and put my golf swing and head back together."

Still flushed with the joy of the Norman tale on Thursday, the assembled media men asked Duval after his round whether he was conscious of what a good story he was making.

"I'm sure I'm pretty aware of it, right, yeah," he said. "However, I can't be on the outside looking in and cheering myself on. I certainly am internally but it doesn't do a whole lot for my score."

They also asked him, after all his troubles, whether his attitude to golf was different to the David Duval circa 2001 model.

"I probably don't live it and die it like I may have back then," he said. "But I also haven't sought a return to be mediocre. I know what greatness is about and I know what it takes to have greatness and I won't settle for mediocrity.

"I have been working towards greatness, not just getting back to making cuts and managing to play half-decent."

Duval, who missed the Open last year, has received plenty of support from the Birkdale crowds this week, and is likely to get even more as he attempts to write another chapter in the story this weekend.

"Open champions are embraced forever," he said. "I think Open fans appreciate the hard work. You're talking about golfers and true golf fans. They play the game and they know the work it takes.

"I've had to work for quite some time. I've been trying to take the long route and the hard route back to greatness.

"That story has yet to be told as to whether I can get back to that point, but that's what I strive for."

What if this is the twist from left field that none of us expected? What if, instead of the likes of Mickelson, Els or Ogilvy, the man who emerges to finally challenge Woods's supremacy is none other than his old adversary, David Duval?

It's all a bit premature, of course. But he's only got another 1086 places to go.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    You never know, it could be Duval's year. I doubt it will be but anything can happen. I have a slight feeling that in the next round Norman and Duval will slowly fade away but i'm not a mindreader.
    If i was to put my money on someone though it would have to be the defending champion Padraig Harrington.

 

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