After big fall, Duval back in spotlight

David Duval is making his first start since his surprise run at the U.S. Open.
Fred Vuich/SI

SILVIS, Ill. (AP) — Considering how far he fell over the years, David Duval has good reason to feel vindicated heading into the John Deere Classic.

One thing, though.

``I don't see myself as back, or vindicated,'' he said Wednesday.

That three-way tie for second at the U.S. Open last month?

``I just did what I've been expecting to do and what I feel like I'm capable of doing,'' he said.

Once the world's No. 1 player, Duval will try to keep the momentum going in his first start since a stunning tie for second place with Phil Mickelson and Ricky Barnes at Bethpage Black. It won't be easy. U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover is in the field here along with defending champion Kenny Perry, who has five wins in the past year even though turns 49 next month. Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, and Steve Stricker are here, too.

For Glover, the past few weeks have been a little hectic.

Phone calls and e-mails keep pouring in, and when he goes out, he's no longer just a face in the crowd. People recognize him. A few, anyway.

``It's not Tiger Woods walking into a bar,'' said Glover, who followed the U.S. Open win by tying for 11th at the Travelers Championship and fifth at the AT&T National.

He is, however, a player with a breakthrough victory. Duval got one years ago and now, he's trying to do it again.

Duval has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2001 British Open, his only major victory. He had finished within five strokes of the lead only once in the eight years and 143 tournaments before the U.S. Open. He arrived at Bethpage ranked 882nd. By the time he left, he had moved up to No. 142, thanks to a dramatic and resilient performance.

Now, the question is: Was it an aberration or a rebirth? A brief glimpse at what was or a sign of things to come?

To Perry, the answer is obvious.

``He's definitely back and you'll definitely see a lot more of him,'' he said.

Duval's performance at Bethpage did not stun Perry. The two had been playing practice rounds together and what he saw looked awfully familiar - like the Duval of old.

``His golf swing looks like it used to when he was dominating,'' Perry said. ``You know what, when a guy is that talented and good and he's left the game for a while, I've actually got to believe it's more personal. He has another agenda, maybe he's tired of the golf life. Now, it looks like he's motivated again to get back out here.''

Little by little, Duval sees his old self again.

A few years ago, he looked at old video and noticed just how far out of whack his back, wrist and shoulder problems had thrown his swing. He made some adjustments, play well in spots but could not sustain it. He turned his attention to his clubs and noticed a problem. He'd switched grips and the cap was slightly longer.

``So all of a sudden, my clubs became an eighth of an inch longer,'' he said. ``They become almost a swing weight heavier when a club gets longer. It changes the way the lie of it plays. I knew there had to be something wrong with my golf clubs because I said, 'I'm swinging the golf club too well to be hitting some of these shots.'''

To Davis Love III, the fact that Duval appears to be re-emerging is no surprise; that it took so long is.

``When David was playing great, he was as confident and cocky as anybody, expected to win every week,'' Love said.

He saw some of that old cockiness at the U.S. Open and a poise that allowed him to dig in, keep his composure and rebound from that triple bogey early in the final round to a tie for the lead with two holes to play. When he walked off the course, Duval waved his white cap in a rare show for an ``entirely different'' man now.

``And that's the whole purpose,'' Duval said. ``I think that as people, all of us strive to change and be better and become more understanding and compassionate as you grow older and hopefully a little wiser. So am I different? Damn right I'm different. Everybody in this room is different than they were 10 years ago.''

Five years ago, he married Susan Persichitte. She already had three children of her own and the couple has since added two more. The family is a major motivator for Duval.

``They say, 'Well, we've seen you play well,''' he said. ``And I'm like, 'No, you haven't, actually.'''

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