Will David Duval Keep U.S. Open Dreams Alive?

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IJune 21, 2009

While all the headlines coming into Bethpage Black and the 2009 U.S. Open this week focused on Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the best story coming from the rain-soaked course is that of David Duval.

These three names know a little something about golf, it was not that long ago that these men were the best golfers in the world.

One look need no further than the 2001 Masters.   Augusta National had a made-for-TV final round that Sunday as the three best golfers were battling for the green jacket. 

Playing in the final group, Mickelson and Woods were doing battle with Duval just a group ahead and all three playing high quality golf.

Duval had a share of the lead after making a birdie on the par five 15th but gave it back on the very next hole.

Woods would win ultimately win that battle, leaving Duval and Mickelson still searching for their first major title.

However, Duval would not have to wait long.  He took home the 2001 British Open just a few months later.

Things were shaping up nicely for the former No. 1 ranked golfer in the world.  The same man who carded a 59 in 1999 in the final round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic for an epic victory.

Duval looked to be one of a handful of guys who could challenge Tiger's dominance on the PGA Tour.

Well, things did not quite turned out like we all imagined.

Indeed, eight years later and Duval is still seeking his first win since his breakthrough at the British.

No sports figure has ever had such a dramatic fall from grace.

Duval went from one of the top three players in the world to 80th on the money list in 2002, by 2003 he was 211th.

As of this moment, Duval is ranked 882nd.

Duval's fall has been attributed to many things.

He has suffered from vertigo.

He has experienced back and shoulder injuries that put him on the shelf.

He has overcome personal disruptions and turmoil.

Most importantly though, Duval has had to deal with a loss of confidence.

He had gone from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the heap faster than a New York minute.

Golf, particularly, can be a brutal sport to those who are struggling.  It has cruelly denied many golfing phenoms the opportunities they desire.

Duval returned to the 2004 U.S. Open and shot 25 over par, a humiliating experience.

However, Duval has continued to play sporadically and over the past season has begun to really dedicate himself to getting back.

During the U.S. Open coverage this week, Duval's former college coach was interviewed and he claimed that he thought Duval's swing was back in form.

He has hopes that Duval could prove to everyone that he was not done yet playing golf at a competitive level.

It was not a preposterous idea.

Although everyone remembers the 2008 Open Championship because of Greg Norman's turning-back-the-clock performance, Duval also had a solid start after the first two rounds.

Duval carded rounds of 73-69 to put himself in position before an 83 derailed the feel good story.

So here we are again, Duval has put himself in good position after two rounds in a major.

After an opening round 67, Duval appeared to be heading south with a terrible start to his second round.

Duval bogeyed four of his first six holes and appeared to be fading into the oblivion he has resided in for nearly eight years.

However, a funny thing happened at Bethpage Black, the "Robo-golfer" came back.

Even on the ropes, Duval was able to scrap back playing the final 12 holes at 4 under and finish the day with an even par round of 70.

Currently in a tie for fourth place and five shots back Duval is still in position to pull off a victory for the ages.

The question is, can he keep it together?

While the swing is in its best shape in quite some time, Duval has to overcome some severe mental barriers if he is to accomplish the improbable.

After all, this is not just U.S. Open pressure, this is eight years of futility and obscurity boiling over into knee deep rough and difficult weather conditions.

Can Duval maintain focus and poise?

The New York crowd would certainly hope so. 

A man who was once criticized for his cold demeanor has become a fan favorite.  He has embraced their lively nature and they have responded in kind.

It may not be a natural fit, but Duval appears to be in a New York state of mind.

Duval, who never really enjoyed his time at the top, has learned some hard lessons. 

Humility makes a person more personable, it also makes him wiser.

Duval would welcome the opportunity to reach the summit one more time and really take the time to enjoy it.

If he does win, you can bet it's a victory we can all take some joy in.


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