David Duval makes it back to Masters from abyss

David Duval went from the No. 1 player in the world to returning to Q school and asking for sponsor exemptions. He is back at the Masters for the first time since 2006 (Curtis Compton/AJC)

David Duval went from being the No. 1 player in the world to returning to "Q school" and asking for sponsor exemptions. He is back at the Masters for the first time since 2006 (Curtis Compton/AJC)

AUGUSTA – If you missed the last time David Duval played in the Masters, the chalk outlines probably still exist somewhere along the second hole. He punched a hole in the azaleas, bounced consecutive shots off the trees, found shrubbery and pine straw and sand and possibly the corpse of Jimmy Hoffa – and after 10 shots, the hole.

After 24 holes in the 2006 Masters, he was 20-over and had qualified for FEMA relief.

Somehow, Duval is back in Augusta this week. Nearly nine years removed from his last victory (2001 British Open), and after one of the most spectacular grease fires in sports history, the former Georgia Tech All-American qualified for his first Masters since 2006 by finishing second in the U.S. Open last year.

Notwithstanding Tiger Woods’ public humiliation, it’s hard to imagine a more humbled competitor here than Duval. He was the No. 1 player in the world. He is the last player to finish atop the PGA Tour money list (1998) not named Woods or Vijay Singh. He won 13 tournaments between 1997 and 2001, had a fat deal with Nike and was on the top shelf of the trophy case at IMG.

Know where Duval was this winter? In Tour qualifying school (”Q school”).

“A little bit of a reality check,” he said. “I felt it was the best thing for me to do. I wanted to play. I wanted to earn my way so I wouldn’t have to ask for spots.”

Did that, too.

Twice early this season, Duval phoned and sent letters to tournament directors, asking for sponsor exemptions so he could play, since he doesn’t have a full Tour card any more. The San Diego Open balked at Duval but said yes to the clownish John Daly (who didn’t make the cut). San Diego extended an 11th hour  invitation to Duval but he declined.

“I got turned down in the first [tournament] I asked, and then I got turned down by the second one,” said Duval, who wouldn’t identify either. “I called the second one [afterward]. I asked the guy, ‘Please don’t take this the wrong way. I understand you have to make your decisions. But am I doing this correctly? I’ve never done this before.’ He said, ‘No, it’s fine.’ So I said, ‘Great, I’ll see you next year when I don’t have to ask for a spot.’”

He has found the whole experience a bit humbling — particularly when a few young players asked for his autograph at Q-school.

“You kind of take it for granted, and make the assumption, ‘OK, I’m gonna be playing here. I’m gonna be playing there.’ You don’t realize that you’re actually doing some great things just to [qualify].”

From No. 1 in 1998, Duval had tumbled to No. 882 when he qualified for last year’s U.S. Open via a qualifying tournament. He stunned everybody by finished second, first top-10 finish since 2002. His check for $559,830  nearly matched his earnings of the previous five years combined.

He made the cut in only 11 of 42 tournaments in 2008 and 2009, and only one of 20 in 2005. In 2006, he missed the Masters cut for the fourth straight year after finishing second-third-sixth-second in the previous four. The only comic relief came when his stepmother asked him, “What didn’t you hit on No. 2?” and Duval responded, “The fairway.”

There were several reasons for the slide. Injuries (back). Swing problems. Family issues. Probably arrogance. The story went from the greatness to the crash of David Duval. Always prickly with the media, he grew tired of being asked about his decline. Sometimes he wouldn’t talk at all.  He’s not real big on psychoanalysis in the interview room. Even Tuesday, he grew mildly irritated when his fall was probed. Can’t blame him.

Ask how he has made it back this far and he says simply, “It’s taken a while to put it back together. I’m starting to reap some of the rewards of that work.”

Not that he is back on top. He finished second at Pebble Beach this season, but he has made the cut in only three of seven tournaments. Few believed he would be back in Augusta after 2006. He plans to take full advantage, even playing in the Par 3 tournament. He says he has a “greater appreciation” for these things.

As for whether he feels he’s back, Duval said, “I’m entirely comfortable with what I’m doing right now.”

Just qualifying was a step forward.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC


Recent Posts on Tiger Woods and Masters

Masters Digi-Blog II: In search of squirrels

After Tiger Woods’ mea culpa, it’s time for us all to back off

On stage, Woods performs as well as we could’ve expected

Live from the Tiger News Network: Relaxed, jovial, still good

Tiger Woods still has something to answer (but not about sex)

Digi-Blog goes in search of Tiger Woods

As week begins, Masters is in Tiger Woods’ shadow

Tiger’s latest women problems: His kindergarten teacher

Woods making the right call on returning at the Masters

Woods’ safest return is on golf’s biggest stage: Masters

Countdown: Holyfield KOs Dr. Phil, and that Tiger gal can act!

Tiger Woods can go in either direction after public humiliation

Woods: ‘I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted’

Over/under on how many times Woods says, ’sorry’: 5 1/2

Tiger Woods trying to control an uncontrollable situation

53 comments Add your comment

mmgtfan

April 6th, 2010
6:24 pm

Cannon

April 6th, 2010
6:27 pm

Hopefully Mr. Duval will be around this weekend.

Don

April 6th, 2010
6:39 pm

Please don’t compare David Duval to Tiger Woods. Duval lost his golf game but he still has character. Had Duval won the U.S. Open last year it would have been one of the great comeback stories in the history of golf. I am pulling for him to get all the way back.

cross your fingers

April 6th, 2010
6:49 pm

Maybe we will get lucky and see David Duval and Tiger Woods in the same group.

Reid Adair

April 6th, 2010
6:52 pm

I have always admired David Duval. I know he hasn’t been best buddies with the media, but to go back to qualifying school, to ask for exemptions and everything else, I think he has gotten a better appreciation for what he had and, hopefully, what he will have again.

Great post, Jeff.

Jeff Schultz

April 6th, 2010
6:57 pm

Don — I’m clearly not comparing the two in terms of morals.

Bob Horner stayed hurt

April 6th, 2010
6:57 pm

Gosh…I like Duval a little more now thanks to Jeff’s words…..I’ve always thought Duval was pompous jerk……

I’m pulling for Ernie Ells this week…go Ernie..!!!

Jeff Schultz

April 6th, 2010
6:58 pm

Cross your fingers — Not playing together. But their groups Thursday are playing back to back (last 2 of the day).

Jeff Schultz

April 6th, 2010
6:59 pm

Reid — Thanks Reid.

wxwax

April 6th, 2010
7:16 pm

Duval’s one of the most interesting cases of a golfer losing his game that I can think of.

The man is obviously mentally fragile. And that raises the obvious question: how did a brittle man win so often?

He’s a terrific story.

Cuz

April 6th, 2010
7:20 pm

I wonder if Duvall is staying here in the neighborhood? He used to come jogging by here the last time he was invited.

kevin

April 6th, 2010
7:27 pm

@ Don-I am sick of everyone and their moral highhorse! Everyone is squeaky clean and moral (esp on blogs) …until you get caught…Im 100% sure if we dissected your life Don that we would find something that is sick and disgusting….and the crazy thing is Don…thats the case with every single human on Earth….quit hiding behind your postings and acting like a Puritan or even worse a Pharisee….Yeah Tiger messed up and messed up bad and deserves scoldings, etc from his WIFE and FAMILY….and not you and the media………So the question is Tiger messed up bad….but who hasn’t?

kerry

April 6th, 2010
7:48 pm

“probably arrogance”

Every article I have read about Duval since he started on the pro tour has revealed nothing but an arrogant, entitled, jerk. Every time he breaks 80, you guys go to your word processors saying “he’s baaaack”. Once a jerk always a jerk.

worm

April 6th, 2010
8:04 pm

Duval is Tiger Woods without sex!

worm

April 6th, 2010
8:11 pm

Duval is an arrogant jerk..Always had to have an individual suite while on golf trips at Tech..Wouldn’t socialize or eat with his teammates..He married a UGA girl and was doing well, then his marriage,life and golf game fell apart…73-74 and another missed cut..Oh well, maybe they’ll have snowboarding with the stars!

Bob Horner stayed hurt

April 6th, 2010
8:34 pm

worm..your mean..Tiger likes the girls on top…Duval is a missionary man……can’t we all get along..???? me..? I’m a fat loser….

Delbert D.

April 6th, 2010
8:38 pm

I’d like to see Duval and Kuchar in a pairing, and Kuchar humiliating Duval.

Ted Striker

April 6th, 2010
9:31 pm

Good column, hope Duval plays well this week.

p.s. I don’t understand the constant low-grade downer attitude of some people who post in these forums. And I don’t want to understand it.

GT GRAD

April 6th, 2010
9:46 pm

So many people judging David Duval when most (probably all) of them have never even met the man!

I wish him well in life and I hope he has great success on the golf course………his recent troubles and comitment to battle back provides wonderful motivation for everyone who goes through tough times; good decisions, hard work, a positive attitude and a solid work ethic can resolve many many problems we all experience in life!

Good Luck David!!!!!!

Cracker Jacket

April 6th, 2010
10:32 pm

Drug test Tiger!!

Don

April 6th, 2010
10:39 pm

“Im 100% sure if we dissected your life Don that we would find something that is sick and disgusting”

You don’t know me Kevin. Speak for yourself.

All I said was that David Duval doesn’t deserve to be compared to Tiger Woods. Jeff Schultz says he didn’t make the comparison and I agree that he didn’t suggest Duval is an immoral scumbag.

I agree with you that Tiger doesn’t owe an explanation to the media or to me or to anybody other than his family and his sponsors. And I don’t have to pull for him or respect him as a human being. I don’t really care what he says because I think that if he hadn’t gotten caught he’d still be whoring around with every low-rent skank he could get his hands on.

bhunt

April 6th, 2010
11:09 pm

good article JS. i have always been a big Duval fan, and even more so now considering his hard work and humble approach and personality. i will be pulling hard for him at augusta.

college football

April 6th, 2010
11:18 pm

what a weirdo!!

kevin

April 7th, 2010
12:01 am

@ Don- thats true I dont know you. I know you’re human though….that being stated..nobody is perfect. And your point concerning “I think that if he hadn’t gotten caught he’d still be whoring around with every low-rent skank he could get his hands on.” No one usually stops anything on their own. From kids to adults, as long as we are getting away with it theres not really a reason to quit. We justify it in our minds and that goes for anyone and most likely you too…then again I dont know you.

Tiger messed up. I understand he is human. I understand that I am likewise human. I still respect him as a person. He is still a human being,geez. Considering I am not perfect (no i did not cheat but humanly speaking) its hard to hold that standard of not respecting him ever again, etc etc because he made numerous mistakes.

People can change for the good and often times it takes getting caught before they do…its just human nature.

G. Tampa Bedwetter

April 7th, 2010
12:42 am

Once an ass always an ass

GT71

April 7th, 2010
6:59 am

Always liked his – Duval’s – swing and its pace. The great thing about Duval is he seems to have been able to learn – from his mistakes and from his accomplishments. Seems to have gotten life’s priorities righted. For that, he is admirable. The old maxim ‘live and learn’ comes to mind.
Hope he has a wonderful week, No matter how he plays.
Three great story lines for this year’s tourney – Duval, Tiger and don’t forget Ernie Els. Pulling for all three.

TommyJack

April 7th, 2010
8:34 am

Out on a limb here, but maybe most Duval haters are dawg fans…..
Personally, I will pull for an American win here.

Tucker T

April 7th, 2010
8:39 am

Don makes trouble wherever he goes. Great piece Jeff.

Duval is a douche

April 7th, 2010
8:47 am

David Duval is a total douche bag! Most people would truly be humbled by what happened to him…not Duval, he’s as arrogant now as he was when he could actually win a golf tournament. Jeff, why can’t we blame him for becoming “mildly irritated when probed about his fall”? Mickleson, Stricker, Harrington, etc all had to answer questions about Tiger, but they refrained from becoming irritated. Duval WAS #1 for a while and then he disappeared…what else are they going to ask him about? He is a totally irrelevant, classless jerk. Why not write an article about Kuchar or Cink, you know guys that Tech can actually be proud of?

Fed Up With Wren (Again)

April 7th, 2010
9:37 am

I have heard the stories about Duval and his supposed arrogance. My personal experience couldn’t be further from that. I went to the 2008 British Open where Duval was in contention the first two days. I got his autograph during a practice round and he was very gracious. When he learned I was from Jacksonville where we both grew up, he took the time to talk to me about living there and people we both knew.

For myself, I truly admire him. He had worked tirelessly to get back into form. He has accomplished more in his career than most and he could have easily retired after his game went downhill. Seeing him in contention at the U.S. Open last year during the final holes was huge and I hope he does well this week.

AugustaFan

April 7th, 2010
9:38 am

The problem with Duval is an elevated intelligence coupled with a low tolerance for inanity which often produces a hostile response to the idiotic, repetitive questions he gets from the press.

Master this

April 7th, 2010
9:39 am

DAVID DUVAL good luck to you! Glad you went to GT instead of that inbred outhouse in Athens.

GTechsta

April 7th, 2010
9:40 am

You people that call Duval these juvenile names have no clue. He has led a very difficult life outside the ropes of the courses. He takes blame for the death of a family member (brother I believe). Shut your trap until you’ve walked a mile in a man’s shoes. I wish him the very best for a rebounding career. Nice effort, Jeff.

wes

April 7th, 2010
9:53 am

slingblade

April 7th, 2010
10:01 am

kevin, Tiger didn’t mess up. You mess up when you do something wrong once or maybe twice. Tiger has/had a personality flaw that needs to be fixed or his career will be over. It will now follow him wherever he goes and no one will be able to hide it for him anymore. Great Golfer, and if he can fix his problem could be a great human.

Lanny Simons

April 7th, 2010
10:05 am

I don’t understand so many negative comments about Duval. (I’m guessing it has to do with college rivalries of Georgians who read the AJC.) I always liked him because he was cerebral; he read books, imagine that. He’s always been a classy guy and the story of the bone marrow operation to help his brother when he was a kid is well-known.

Duval lost his game when he changed his body type. He went from pudgy to buff and his game went from top-notch to pedestrian. He had other problems, too, but it always seemed to me the weight loss affected his sweing and precipitated his downfall.

PMC

April 7th, 2010
10:33 am

In fairness… those scottish bunkers are deep, it probably took him a while to climb out.

[...] a quick intro and link the ACJ columnist and blogger Jeff Schultz most recent filing from Augusta. If you missed the last [...]

Karl Childers

April 7th, 2010
11:20 am

I like dem french fried potaters….

mmmmmmmmmmmm

Don

April 7th, 2010
11:37 am

Tucker T, not that it really matters but there are multiple people posting under “Don”. I’ve seen somebody posting pretty negative sentiments on the Braves board. I’m not that guy.

Wade

April 7th, 2010
11:58 am

It would be great to see DD in the hunt on Sunday afternoon! Good luck to you DD!

[...] ♦ David Duval makes it back to Masters from abyss [...]

Squirrel Ninja watcher

April 7th, 2010
1:09 pm

When he was at a tournament a couple of years back someone noted that he was on the tee with several coaches. My first thought was that may be part of the problem.

If he needed several coaches telling him what to do, he did not clearly believe in himself.

Never a big Duvall fan, always thought the stern look on the face was unappealling. He never looked like he was enjoying himself on the course. Smile dude, you’re freakin playing golf for a living. Enjoy

Lanny Simons

April 7th, 2010
4:29 pm

I just watched Duval’s press conference today and I have to say he’s probably the kind of guy who will divide people. I like him because he says things like, “Well, I feel like I’ve been answering the same questions for two years now…”

But I can see how others would not like how he makes the reporters uncomfortable, and judges their questions. Other players just grit their teeth and answer the inane questions the same way 1000 times in a row, but it irks Duval.

[...] ♦ David Duval makes it back to Masters from abyss [...]

david duval « Hottest News

April 8th, 2010
9:06 pm

[...] David Duval makes it back to Masters from abyss | Jeff Schultz | http://blogs.ajc.com/jeff-schultz-blog/ | David Duval makes it back to Masters from abyss – Georgia Tech … | http://www.bbuzzoff.com/ | Just BS: 2010 Masters Tee Times and TV Schedules | http://sportstalk4us.blogspot.com/ | [...]

[...] ♦ David Duval makes it back to Masters from abyss [...]

[...] ♦ David Duval makes it back to Masters from abyss [...]

[...] ♦ David Duval makes it back to Masters from abyss [...]

[...] ♦ David Duval makes it back to Masters from abyss [...]