Rising above a slew of contenders, David Duval brought mighty Royal Lytham and St. Annes to its knees to win the British Open, his long overdue first major
By Tom Humphries
All week, too, Alec Harvey, a small, quiet-spoken man from Perth, Scotland, bided his time and waited for them to be done. For 34 years Harvey has been doing this job, engraving the winner's name on the claret jug. Waiting for somebody to figure it out. Somebody always does.
Maybe it would be an American, but the odds and history were against that. Bobby Jones and Tom Lehman came here and won, in 1926 and '96, respectively. They ran against the grain though. Royal Lytham offers golf, but not as America knows it. Truth be told, most Americans aren't even sure if they like this experience. Where's the fun? And what's your wife supposed to do all day? Go to Blackpool and eat jellied eels?
Finally it took a pale, weedy guy with wraparound shades to figure it out. It took an introvert, a Floridian without a tan, a guy almost written off as the greatest casualty of the Tiger era. It took David Duval.
From the tangle of 20 or so plot lines that could have unspooled after play finished on Saturday night, perhaps his was the strongest. The first time Duval saw the course at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, he fell in love with it. Five years ago he realized the control it demanded, the discipline it required. He knew straight off it was for him. This was a course he could relate to.
Nobody else saw it that way. What most people saw was Duval shooting a four-over-par 40 on the back nine on Friday to finish with a 73 (two over par and two below the cut line after his opening 69). He stooped under the wire and into the weekend by dropping just about every putt. Royal Lytham shrugged, but Duval knew. He was putting again.
Funny thing. With that second round finished, Duval, 29, walked from the 18th green to the clubhouse completely unimpeded. Not one autograph hunter. Not one second glance. "There goes yesterday's next big thing," said somebody behind Duval's back. Meanwhile, Colin Montgomerie holed out in the group behind, and the press went back to attend to the growing Montymania. The bookmakers were just as cold, raising Duval's odds to 33 to 1.
Stoicism has always been a Duval trait, however. He has never sold himself as a victim of anything. This is the man, after all, who as a nine-year-old kid lay on a bed with a needle the size of a javelin driven deep into him so that he might donate bone marrow to his 12-year-old brother, Brent. Brent was dying of aplastic anemia, but that's simply one more thing that David has never felt comfortable speaking about.
"Everybody's life experiences shape them in some way, and David is no different," said his fiancée, Julie McArthur, on Sunday evening. "His point [in seldom speaking about Brent] was that he didn't want to be singled out and made different. Everybody else in this room can tell you a sad story. David's point was, I am not a martyr to my past."
That difficult childhood has always informed Duval's career. The best part of solace back then was to be found pelting practice balls at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville. The easiest connection with his golf-pro father, Bob, was a talk about stance and grip and slowing down that backswing. Even now Bob Duval can iron out a kink in David's swing just by turning away from the television and picking up the telephone.
Sometimes he doesn't have to. On Sunday, when he watched on TV back home as his son split the fairway on 18 and strolled from the tee box with a three-shot lead, well, "it just looked like he was having fun," Bob said. He was. What's more, if there had been a time when golf wasn't a joy but a comfort, that went into making Sunday all the sweeter.
There has never been a lightness to being David Duval, but last weekend he found a place where he was happy. Through his college years at Georgia Tech he lived in the shadow of Phil Mickelson, the star at Arizona State. Then he endured a year on the Nike tour before emerging fully grown in time to be eclipsed by Tiger Woods.
Heading into his 27th major championship, Duval's résumé was full of quirky achievements, like shooting a 59 at the Bob Hope or being part of the first father-and-son team to win tournaments on the same Sunday. Nothing too eye-catching, no Grand Slam victories, just a bunch of near misses and hard-luck stories in the agate type of the footnotes.
"He's never talked about the frustration of not winning a major," Bob said on Sunday evening. "All he's ever said is that he should have won two or three Masters, that he had played well enough but someone just played better."
On Sunday nobody else played nearly as well. All the while, as it unfolded, Duval was having the oddest thoughts. There he was, playing in the final pairing with an old idol of his, Bernhard Langer, on the course he loved, on the cusp of a major he craved, and Duval couldn't stop himself from thinking like a heretic. "This is just a silly old game we play," he said afterward. "I kinda thought at times, It's funny how much is made about it because we are playing a game. I've made it a lot bigger than it is too, at times. Maybe that's some of the reason I felt so good today. Maybe I finally realized it's only a game."
That's been the theme of the season for Duval. In the weeks before he came to England, he kicked back and did other things: Went fly-fishing, went mountain biking, did some running and a few workouts and "just cleared my head," he said.
It worked. Saturday's back nine had been a fiesta of bogeymaking by the big names, but Duval quietly played himself into contention with a 65. On Sunday the sole threat came from Niclas Fasth, a Swede whose main claim to fame was his attempt in 1998 to play both the European and PGA tours, thus making himself unrecognizable on two continents.
This was Fasth's first major, and all day Sunday, as the leaders scattered like buckshot, he could feel Duval's breath on his neck. Playing nearly two hours ahead of the leaders, Fasth called close of business at seven under. It never looked like enough, not with Duval so kicked back and relaxed.
On Friday of Open week (he'd just shot a second-round 73, don't forget) Duval had even played a little hooky. The driving range beckoned, and he thought about joining his colleagues as they furiously set about patching up their games. Instead Duval took a few glances at himself swinging in front of the locker room mirror, decided that not much needed fixing and headed for an early dinner with Julie. "I just knew my game was there," he said on Sunday. "I knew I could call upon it, and I knew my putting was good. If the putter is good, I relax."
So he did. Meanwhile everyone else fizzled out. For two days the excitable British press had noted the imprisonment of Lord Jeffrey Archer on the front pages and the liberation of the 38-year-old Montgomerie on the back. Monty, who has had to face every obstacle except popularity over the years, was suddenly swaddled up to his bosom in sentimentality. Having never before broken 70 in the first round of a British Open, he had shot 65 on Thursday to take a three-stroke lead.
Careless! There are those who believe that Monty is your fussy old aunt trapped in the body of a golfer, but by Friday he was proceeding through the rabble like an emperor. His face registered his surprise that the populace had come to praise him and not to bury him. Britain demanded of Monty that he seize the day.
Monty declined, and by Saturday the jig was up. By then four players -- Duval, Langer from Germany, Ian Woosnam from the past and Alex Cejka from Czechoslovakia (but now a German) -- were bunched in the lead at six under par. Behind them were nine more players within a shot and six more within two shots. Some big names were lurking in there: Darren Clarke, Jesper Parnevik and Nick Price. However, what really made a landmark out of the leader board was the name that was absent. At Royal Lytham the bunkers were as inevitable as death and taxes. Everyone succumbed. Even Tiger.
For Tiger watchers the wilderness weeks stretch on. The British bookies had Woods at 7 to 4 to repeat his St. Andrews trick of last year and not hit a bunker all week. He had sand between his toes five times on Thursday and by Saturday was using eyewash to get the stuff out from beneath his lids. Things got worse from there, and by the time he finished, he was at one under, tied for 25th.
Of those who threatened, it was Woosnam, a throwback, who came closest. Now as unfashionable as sideburns and medallions, the little Welshman will reflect on this one into his old age. He'll remember how he barreled onto the 1st tee on Sunday, drew his blade and sent his first shot to within six inches of the hole. "Go\!awrnn, Woosie!" came the shout as he drained the birdie putt and restored himself to a share of the lead.
On the 2nd tee box, lo, the grim reaper arrived. Woosie discovered that he had more than the limit of 14 clubs in his bag. Two-shot penalty!
His response was untouched by serenity. Woosnam vented. Tossed his hat. Fished the surplus driver out of his bag and flung it away. Minutes later came an ominous announcement in the press room: "We are endeavoring to find out more about Ian Woosnam's caddie." A prayer for the boy, Myles Byrne, one of a family of caddying brothers from County Wicklow in Ireland, seemed appropriate.
Woosnam, furious and distracted, bogeyed the next two holes before recovering for an eagle three at the 6th. He began putting his round back together. Even Byrne briefly lost the dead-man-walking look when Woosie birdied 11 and 13. Too little, too late, though.
Inexorably, the story was Duval. He was impeccable even when he wobbled. An errant tee shot on 15 put him in the left rough on Sunday, but his resolution was almost luminous now. He swept the ball out with a six-iron and brought it to rest 210 yards away on the green. Par assured and toughest hole conquered, he was on his way to a 67. With his first major at his fingertips, Duval looked like golf's next big thing again.
By 9 p.m. he was off the ground at Manchester Airport, headed for Toronto. He left behind an empty seat in that purgatorial waiting room for great players who have never, you know -- whisper it -- won a major.
He also erased a memory. On Sunday at St. Andrews last year, David and Julie waited patiently for Woods, with whom they were flying back to the States. David and Julie stood and watched the parade as Tiger gathered his entourage and everyone was herded giddily toward the cars. Watched as Tiger cuddled the claret jug. Looooong day.
One year later and the jug was now a carry-on item at Manchester. It bears the handiwork of Alec Harvey, the humble engraver. Something reassuring about Duval's gait had enabled Harvey to set to work a little early. Now David Duval's name is right there, tucked perfectly beneath that of his friend and rival, Tiger.
"I like the position of my name, right below his," Duval said. "It looks like it is in the right spot."
Issue date: July 30, 2001