Duval reaches out to Blackmon on road to recovery

In April 2005, Puggy Blackmon had a surprise telephone ring. The caller was David Duval, from whom Blackmon hadn’t heard in quite awhile.

“Can you come over to Augusta and meet me?” Duval asked.

Blackmon had been Duval’s coach at Georgia Tech and had worked with him at times since, but not recently. Instead, Duval had taken his golfing cares and woes to a number of “witch doctors,” as some of us are inclined to label those professionals whose specialty is “remodeling” Tour players — fairly or unfairly. Duval hadn’t made a cut in a major championship in three years and, for the most part, had disappeared from the game.

In other words, he had hit rock bottom. The Masters was coming up. He was running low on exemption and was turning to the coach he trusted most of all, although they hadn’t talked for the longest time.
“I was surprised,” Blackmon said. “You could have knocked me over with a feather,” and there he stood under the big tree at Augusta National waiting for their reunion. So teacher and pupil would be together again.
“He was mad at the world. I never went to Augusta to change his attitude off the course; I went to change his attitude on the course,” Blackmon said.

William D. (Puggy) Blackmon III is now director of golf at South Carolina, but on the side, Duval has become a major project. Blackmon is there for every major, and this past winter he was on the road with him throughout the California swing.

“If he keeps on doing what he’s doing, he’ll be back on top of his game to stay,” Blackmon said, and pointed to a critical point in the final round of the U.S. Open at Bethpage.

Duval found his ball impossibly wedged beneath the grass in a bunker on a par-3 hole. Triple bogey.
“The old Duval would have said ‘screw it,’ but he is a totally different person, worked his way through it, and he told me before he caught the plane back to Colorado, ‘There was never any doubt, I was going to win that tournament,’ ” Blackmon said.

Instead, he settled into a tie for second behind Lucas Glover, whose winning shocked the golfing world.
“If he keeps on doing what he’s doing, he’ll be back on top of his game,” Blackmon said. “The swing is back. I could tell at Memphis that he was more comfortable over the ball. He missed the cut in the St. Jude, but that gave him time to get to Bethpage and get in some practice.”

Making the field at Bethpage wasn’t a given. This is his last straw on the Tour. He’s playing on an exemption as one of the 50 all-time leading money-winners. He had to play a 36-hole qualifier to make the Open field. But what Blackmon sees in Duval is a new and appealing disposition. He knows how to smile again.

“He told me once, ‘I wondered several times why you didn’t kick me off the team at Georgia Tech,’ ” Blackmon said. “With his new family, being a parent and having their support has revived the old Duval. People are going to be refreshed by the new/old Duval.”

Blackmon has told Duval, “I’ll not go to my grave until you win the Masters. Now he is back in at Augusta again, but I’m not quite ready to go yet. I’ve got a hunch that Mr. [Tiger] Woods is in for some competition again.”

So there you have it, the new and improved David Duval, back in the game again.

17 comments Add your comment

kfc

June 26th, 2009
10:00 pm

only furman could find a way to work the georgia tech angle into duval’s and blackmon’s efforts!

Observer

June 26th, 2009
10:06 pm

It’s great to see David Duval’s name at the top of the leaderboard again. Hopefully, his mental outlook will allow his physical skills to continue developing. He’s great for the game.

GT '92

June 26th, 2009
11:00 pm

As a Tech fan who has followed Duval since I was at Tech the same time as him, I was extremely excited to see him do well at the Open. I think his downfall back in the early 2000’s was when he tried to get in “Tiger” type shape. He changed his entire body shape and got all ripped up but it destroyed his swing. In college and when he first got on tour, Duval had a heaviness to him. He wasn’t out of shape, but he had a solid base with strong legs. He walked heavy. Then he got to #1 in the world and transformed into a fitness guru. And his game went south. At the Open this year, his swing and body shape looked just like it did early in his career…that solid base creating crisp contact. So his game was there all these years, he just had to find it. And I hope he can continue it. What a great comeback that would be. Good luck to him.

Eddy

June 27th, 2009
6:54 am

I realize that Duval’s former personality and attitude was scratchy and off-putting at best. Perhaps his transformation, probably not yet complete, has come with maturity and also having visited the depths of despair both personally and professionally. I continue to pull for him….redemption is a wonderful thing to behold. My definition of redemption has nothing to do with him winning the Masters or the US Open but merely him playing the type of golf that brings him joy and peace. I also believe that he has found joy and peace in his personal life which is even a greater blessing.

david

June 27th, 2009
1:20 pm

duh!-that’s his job.

Billy

June 27th, 2009
9:39 pm

kfc and david,

What would your rather have? A “nothing” column about duval and blackmon? The fact of the matter is that Blackmon was Duval’s coach AT Georgia Tech. That gives it a GT angle. As far as that being Duval’s job… Well, then you obviously don’t appreciate someone getting their sh!t together after falling to the bottom.

Gumbo

June 28th, 2009
12:57 am

kfc, what a freaking idiot. Might the reason that Mr. Bisher “worked a GT angle” in be the fact that Duval PLAYED at GT, when Blackmon COACHED at GT……

Moron.

GT71

June 28th, 2009
7:31 am

I’ll try to not carry on with the kfc putdowns, but dang, it must be embarrassing to throw stupidity out there for all to see. Course, the great thing about free speech is it DOES make the idiots easier to spot.
As for Duval, I spent Father’s Day in Greenville, SC with my in-laws and they were thrilled that the Clempson kid won. I was too, but was more impressed by what Furman and Blackmon saw in Duval. The swing seems to be back – the putting never left. But the attitude – from without – still seems a bit irrascible (and that’s being nice and un-Duvalish if you will). But if the inner demons are being dealt with, that’s terrific. He can practice up on the Mickelson schmooze next week. He has the swing again, now he needs to develop the mental toughness (if that can be developed) of Mr. Woods. Once that’s done, he can compete with the best. Best of luck, David. And nice article, Furman.

smartguy

June 28th, 2009
7:44 am

Go get ‘em DD.

kfc

June 28th, 2009
8:11 pm

nobody was pulling harder for dd than i was…the story should be about where dd is now, not where he was!

GT's Nuts

June 29th, 2009
9:43 am

I’m a Georgia Tech die hard but David Duval is a first class A hole. This article doesn’t come close to describing how much of a turd he really is. I’m not sure how anyone can root for this joker..

Tom

June 29th, 2009
2:26 pm

Nuts, I would submit that Duval definiely fit that description for many years of his life (definitely when he was at GT), but it seems that finally having a family and going thru what he did with his game have had quite a positive impact on his demeanor and interaction. Hope his “comeback” continues.

GT's Nuts

June 29th, 2009
4:57 pm

He’s still an inter-galactic A hole.

ResacaJoe

June 30th, 2009
9:20 am

1992 Bellsouth Classic playing as an amateur Duval hit driver 7 iron into 18, a short par 5 and drained eagle putt to get in the final group on Sunday with eventual winner Tom Kite. Locals went beserk as they should have. Even “Dawg” fans were cheering the college kid from GT. He played terrible on Sunday mostly trying to stay out of Kite’s way but Saturday’s finish was magic. Definitely a strange dude but I wish him well.

Reality

June 30th, 2009
11:37 am

It may be a necessary evil to achieve top-of-the-world status at a particular sport, but I have to agree with GT’s Nuts. The history of Duval’s personality is one of total, mind-boggling arrogance. Even his comment after his Open performance reveals a man who doesn’t want to be gracious, enjoy the moment and say something positive or endearing. All he could say was, “There was never any doubt I was going to win that tournament.” Really, David? You haven’t sniffed a lead in seven or eight years and you had no doubt that you were going to win the most difficult tournament of the year? No denying it was a great performance, but he’s going to have to do a lot more funny Nike commercials (”best contact you’ve made all year, Duval”) or kiss a ton of babies before I’m going to actually root FOR him. My opinion is he’s had his moment in the sun. I’d prefer he toil at the game for the rest of his life like the rest of us mere mortals and let some decent human beings like Kenny Perry or Sean O’Hair win some majors. Duval is golf’s original FIGJAM (Google it if you don’t know what it means.)

DooDuval

June 30th, 2009
1:54 pm

Agree with GT’s nuts.. went to school with him and he has a dud of a personality. There is really no endearing quality to speak of when it comes to Duval. What you see is what you get, which is nothing.

bakerman

June 30th, 2009
5:29 pm

David might not have the ‘personality’ you like, but you do not see him mouthing expletives on the golf course like other ‘personalities’. I’ve known him the better part of 20 years, and I believe he is the most misunderstood player on tour. He happens to be an introvert who is well grounded and comfortable in his own skin. He is probably the most well-read player on tour. I will always pull for him because he deserves it.