Passion such a beautiful thing for David Duval

Having arrived in plenty of time to tee off at the appointed time of 7am on Saturday, David Duval had not struck a ball until 6pm. 

Ah, the fury of Mother Nature and the fickleness of links, where wind plays such havoc that play is suspended for more than 10 hours.

So by the time he finished his eight holes to conclude the second round of the weather-plagued 144th Open Championship, Duval was understandably tired and asked if he could sit.

Nearby, the majestic clock constructed into the Royal & Ancient clubhouse advised that it was 8:30pm, but on this day, with his last-hole birdie making the cut, Duval had turned it back to 2001.

It was a time long before Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth stole our interest, back in the glory days of Tiger Woods when in a five-year period (August 1999 to Augusta 2004) only one man was his equal — Duval, who wrestled the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for nearly four months over two occasions.

Included in that stretch was an Open Championship win at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 2001 when the most stoic of world-class golfers showed a humanness that only few people took the time to know existed.

Embracing the Claret Jug, Duval told the crowd at the presentation ceremony how he had come to be passionate about the Open Championship and the aura of links.

Then, he paused, and said with a reverent tone, “I want to tell you a story. I came here for the first time in 1995, to play in the Scottish Open…” and Duval spoke of a recovery shot from gorse and hearing a gentleman offer applause and tell him, “Well played.”

Fourteen summers later, that story came to mind because the now 43-year-old Duval — his fall from the mountain having left him without playing status — authored another tale from the Scottish Open, this one just last week.

His opening tee shot lost wide of the right fairway, so, too, was his next one, this time left. The third tee shot might have been his toughest.

“Now, there were 10 guys on the tee. I felt terrible for him,” Ron Levin, Duval’s caddie and good friend, said.

He made a quadruple-bogey eight, played his next 16 holes in 1-under, then lost two more tee shots and made an eight on the 18th. But he never, not for a moment, strayed from character.

How? Why?

“It’s the champion that he is,” Levin said. “He acted like a professional. A lot of guys would have been planning their escape, would have broken a club, made an excuse. None of that (from Duval).”

Leaving his disappointment in Gullane, Duval came up to St. Andrews to prepare for what is a pilgrimage. He knew the week of the 144th Open Championship would be dominated by emotions, for Tom Watson’s final Open, for Nick Faldo’s final Open at St Andrews, for Arnold Palmer’s final visit to St Andrews.

But Duval noted that it would be the 20th anniversary of his first Open and that he cherishes everything about this trip.

“It puts a smile on my face to be here every year,” Duval said. “I love this golf, these golf courses. I love the presence (links) requires of a player, how you have to think things through.”

The 2001 Open Championship remains Duval’s most recent win and for a multitude of reasons his career went off line within a few years of that triumph. Injuries slowed him. Enthusiasm waned. A family (wife, five children) took priority. The PGA Tour got younger as he got older.

His status on the PGA Tour diminished, Duval has played in but 27 tournaments since 2013. “Competing against the best golfers in the world and the Dustin Johnsons and Jordan Spieths and Rory McIlroys is not a fair fight when I (don’t play a lot),” Duval said yesterday.

He had gone out early and shot a third-round 67, Duval was at 5-under 211. No, he isn’t in the lead, nor did he throw his name onto the leaderboard. But he did remind us that passion counts and can be a beautiful thing.


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