I spent a few hours over a couple of days with David Duval last week. I was glad to see him since he’s faded out of the picture over the last few months. Duval was married in March and moved to Denver with his new wife and their three children. Denver, you might ask? Not exactly the place to work on your game in the off season. But Duval isn’t worried too much about his game, or appears not too worried, and that’s OK.
Having known David for the better part of twenty years, (here’s where I drop into my “sage old grizzled veteran role”) I’ve watched his development as a player, and also as a person. From junior golfer at Timiquana and the Plantation, to collegiate star at Georgia Tech, to a hiccup joining the PGA Tour, to bonafide Tour star, David was singularly focused on a goal: see how good he could be. Not to become the best player in the world, but to see how good he could be. Turns out, that quest did lead him to a number one ranking and a major championship at The Open. But David is a smart guy, a very smart guy, and the win at the Open, while gratifying as a payoff for hard work, was not satisfying as an end all-be all achievement. And it affected his motivation. What other mountains were there to climb? Throw in an emotional breakup with his long time girlfriend and a variety of injuries that changed his swing, and all of the sudden, David couldn’t break an egg.
For so many athletes, they keep pounding away, trying to find the answers, only to become more and more frustrated. But most do that because that’s all they know. Duval is much different. Golf is just one of the things he knows and exploring the other parts of his life is as important to him as anything he could achieve in golf. Those couple of days I spent with David were enlghtening for me and for a lot of us who’ve known him for a long time (there I go again.) He’s as happy as I’ve ever seen him. He’s content, he’s centered. That arms length, aloofness he displayed in public has been replaced by a genuine warmth, complete with a straight look in the eye and a smile.
Duval’s travails in life have been well documented, and they shaped his personality. So it would make sense that two very positive things, marriage and kids, would also shape his personality. When I asked him the standard newlywed question “How’s married life treating you?” He grinned ear to ear and said, “Awesome!”
His step-children, two boys and a girl from 13 down to 8 years old, are attached to him as if he’s been around their whole lives. He talks to his kids with that combination of love, tenderness and authority that can’t be taught. I know he’s only been married for a couple of months, but he and his wife certainly seem like a match.
I didn’t ask him when he’d play again, but just about everybody else did. He didn’t really have an answer, except something vague about when he’s ready. Which is perfect. Money is not a problem, and even though his sponsors, (Nike, Oakley et al) are running a little thin on patience, Duval isn’t about to step back into professional golf until he’s ready. He looks healthy, more healthy than he has when he’s on a strict diet and exercise regime. He’s committed to the U.S. Open, but it’s doubtful he’ll play there. Even the (British) Open Championship might not get him back. David and his father, Senior PGA Tour player Bob Duval, are scheduled to play in Johnny Miller’s Father-Son Tournament in August and it could be until then before David returns to competition. Don’t be surprised if he returns to the Tour at the International, outside his current home, Denver, also in August. But don’t worry about David. He’s just fine. In fact, he’s better than that.