In Duval's universe there is no disappointment or frustration, and he won't acknowledge any side effects from blowing a chance to win the Masters for a second straight year. "It was deflating, yes, but it's deflating most every week out here," he says.
Duval dropped out of sight after Augusta, taking three weeks off, then mailing it in at Houston and New Orleans. "I wasn't really into it," he says. From New Orleans through the PGA, a span of more than three months that makes up the heart of the schedule, Duval played only three tournaments other than the majors, a bizarre bit of lassitude even for a guy known for quirky scheduling. "I played so sporadically this year that I could never get a good rhythm," says Duval. "I will try to do a better job of scheduling, which probably means playing more."
Duval did finish a strong third at the Memorial, his one tune-up before the Open, and says, "You can't say I wasn't prepared, because my game was there at Pinehurst." For two rounds, anyway. Duval opened with a 67-70 to share the lead but went 75-75 on the weekend to tie for seventh. "I failed to execute," he says. "There is no deeper explanation."
Others disagreed. Duval has never enjoyed the burdens that come with being a top player, and after he went to No. 1, the demands increased. After Duval's fades at Augusta and Pinehurst, the notion that he wasn't willing to pay the price began to gain currency. "That's the thing I don't understand," he says. "Just because I don't win a certain event, I'm afraid to be Number 1? I don't buy that—at all."
The scrutiny on Duval increased at Carnoustie, where the tabloids had a field day with him. Things reached such a fever pitch that he wound up being pilloried for his ugly Americanism on the op-ed page of the august London Times. "I read some things over there that were shocking," he says. "Supposedly I ripped the R&A, called the course a joke and said I'd never play over there again. Those were outright fabrications, and to have them printed by supposedly reputable news organizations was very disillusioning." Duval didn't help himself by opening with a 79 and finishing 62nd.
Fifteen days after the British, Duval teed it up in the Showdown at Sherwood, the contrived prime-time match against Woods, who was already beginning to ride the hot streak that would shoot him back to the top. Taking part in the show was a curious move by Duval, who had nearly pulled a muscle earlier in the year trying to downplay the rivalry. He played poorly under the klieg lights and looked uncomfortable throughout. The official, IMG-approved rivalry with Woods would be short-lived.
"Two weeks later I wasn't even a part of [the rivalry] anymore," Duval says. That was because of Garcia's coming-out party at the PGA. Garcia was the anti-Duval, a telegenic emoter who wasn't about to let Woods kick sand in his face, and golf fans clutched him to their collective bosom. "If I understand correctly, the criticism is really about my personality, not my game," Duval says. "People want me to be more vocal, pump my fist more, act more emotional. That's not me. I thought it was the scores that mattered."
As for Garcia, Duval is complimentary but occasionally prickly. Asked about him at the Skins, Duval said, "I don't derive any motivation from Sergio. I don't believe he has won over here."
Duval's image took another hit at the PGA, as he remained outspoken in his belief that the players should have some say in the allocation of Ryder Cup profits. Through an endless series of press conferences and locker-room grillings, Duval stuck to his guns, as he always does, and he remains unrepentant. "I think it's a hell of an irony that I was hung out to dry by all these magazines and newspapers for supposedly being greedy when they're sensationalizing and misrepresenting what I've said so they can sell more copies and make more money," he says. "Aren't they being greedy too?"
All this controversy would have been an interesting sidelight had it not sidetracked Duval. Through the U.S. Open he had those four victories and four other top seven finishes. Following the Open he had only one chance to win, when he came in second at the International. By the time Valderrama rolled around, Woods had already won the money title and everything else. All along Duval had said that he would play in Spain only if he had a shot at repeating as the leading money winner, and no amount of public hand-wringing could change his mind. Thus we were given the bizarre scene of Finchem, the most powerful man in the game, making excuses for the No. 2 player in the world. The commish said that it was his understanding that Duval hadn't flown over because he has trouble sleeping overseas. We are not making this up.