It’s been over a decade since David Duval won a tournament. July 22, 2001 to be specific, when he took home the Claret Jug from Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s for his first and only major championship. For the former No. 1 player in the world, it was a quick fall from grace, and Duval hasn’t been close to the same player since then.
So what makes him think he’s got what it takes to win again on the PGA Tour this year?
For the last several seasons, Duval has relied on a combination of medical extensions, career money list status and sponsor’s exemptions to play wherever he can. When he started off 2011 with a few top-25s, and even a top-ten at the Northern Trust Open, things were looking up, but that was as good as it ever got. Entering 2014, Duval announced that this would be his last season asking for sponsor exemptions, saying that if he couldn’t earn his way back onto Tour full-time, that he would find something else to do.
Fast forward to this week, and the man who once challenged Tiger Woods for the top spot in the world seems to have turned his entire outlook around. He acknowledges that he didn’t have what it took physically to play through his litany of injuries. “Looking back, I wasn’t physically equipped,” Duval said. “My game wasn’t good enough. I was a little delusional about how I was playing. Now I’m not delusional about it.”
His results at the Zurich Classic show that he may be on to something. At 42, he isn’t too old to compete, but he also knows the window is closing with each passing year. It’s an uphill road, but one that he seems unusually prepared for.
Duval’s T-25 finish in New Orleans was a step in the right direction. The only real negative from his week is that he wasn’t able to keep up with the ridiculous birdie pace of the first three rounds. He wasn’t out there hacking up the course. For the first time in years, he looks like he can actually play at this level.
Winning, while a solid goal, is probably a long way away, even in a best-case scenario. With players like Woods and Phil Mickelson struggling with injuries, the youth movement is in full effect. Week in and week out, the level of play required to win on the Tour is incredible.
Then again, you have to be in the field in the first place, and unless Duval continues to improve in sporadic action, there’s no promise of that even happening. It would be great to see him turn back the clock, but it’s a long road ahead.