by G. Rennie
Back in the late 90’s David Duval was a force of nature, it seemed, unleashing a torrent of wins in a short time span as he won 13 from ’97 to ’01. His last win came at The Open Championship at this year’s venue, Royal Lytham & Saint Anne’s. Even though Duval is currently ranked 228 in the OWGR and the local books have him touted at 500 to 1, his status as the last champion from this course in 2001 warranted some interview time at the media tent.
Back in the late 90’s, Duval’s main rival was one Tiger Wood’s and it was Tiger who wrested the #1 ranking from Duval and it was Tiger who matched, and then exceeded, Duval’s achievement with his unique 2000 season and his rise to true dominance in the sport until 2008. Duval and Woods became good friends but the similarities between the two were very superficial and nothing signifies the fundamental differences between those two then the interview Duval gave today.
Duval parried some golf related questions but the interesting bit was his discussion of his personal life. His fall from the pinnacle of the golf world is well documented, including the reported existential moment he had in the wake of hoisting the Claret Jug, when he asked “Is that all there is?” Today he talked about being “a very wealthy man” and he went on to explain that his wealth was the blessing of his wife and children. “My life in general has blown up exponentially in a wonderful way with meeting my wife, having an instant family with stepchildren, having a couple kids of my own biologically…so I’m an incredibly, incredibly wealthy man. I’ve got a wife that loves me. I love her. The kids are wonderful. You know, they’re a pain in the rear like everybody else’s kids sometimes, but we have fun. I’ve been lucky.” He talked about how neat it was to have his oldest son there at Royal Lytham. His 22 year old son is actually his step-son but that’s just a technicality, as he is his son, he doesn’t have those conventional boundaries.
After the 2001 Open Duval lost his way on the golf course, literally and figuratively. At the 2002 U.S. Open my bald headed brother and I watched from behind the green at the long par 4 sixth hole as Duval hit a drive that was further off line than any tee ball I had ever seen a pro hit. After a search the ball was found, Duval hit an incredible approach short of the green, chipped up and sank a long putt for a “routine” par. And that was a picture in miniature of the next 10 years of his golfing exploits. The magic on the course was gone but that proved OK as he found something more precious and more needed – a reason for living and loving others to share that life with.
Duval let us into that world today with a level of introspection and candor that is so rare in the world of sport. This approach is 180 degrees opposite of what we get from Tiger. Tiger isn’t capable of true introspection I think and frankly, I’m happy not to have a picture of his interior life. But without that sense of humanity in a hero, sporting or otherwise, it’s hard to get invested in a guy and we root more deeply for those who let us in a bit, who share some vulnerabilities with us.
In his heyday David Duval was as good a driver of the golf ball as there was. He hit it straight and deep. He went real deep again today. Glad to see you back, David.