Tiger Woods's so-called slump has received plenty of attention, but no skid has been blamed on more factors than David Duval's, even though the chief culprit is all too obvious. Ranked No. 1 in the world in 1999, when he completed a run of 11 victories in 34 tournaments, Duval has won only one of his last 36 starts and fallen to sixth in the world.
Duval, who withdrew from the Nissan, refuses to admit any-thing's wrong, and that has given rise to an abundance of theories. Some have speculated that Duval hated the glare of being No. 1 so much that he unconsciously abdicated the position. Others say Duval's body-altering exercise regimen has caused him to lose his groove. A popular theory holds that his psyche has been crippled by Sunday failures to win his first major. Even Duval's friendship with Woods (never fraternize with the enemy), his recent engagement to longtime girlfriend Julie McArthur and his legal skirmish with the Acushnet Company, with which he had an endorsement contract, have been cited.
Here's the real reason for his slump: Duval's weak with the wedge. I'm not talking about standard pitches from 75 to 110 yards—Duval is excellent at those. I mean the talent shots around the green, in particular the most indispensable accessory to today's power game: the lob shot.
Duval doesn't have a lob shot, not of the caliber of three of the players ahead of him in the World Ranking—Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els. Last year Els and Woods ranked first and third, respectively, in the Tour's scrambling stat. Mickelson, the master of the flop shot, was sixth. Duval has never ranked better than 42nd in scrambling. Last year he was 86th. This year he's 140th.
Unlike Mickelson and Woods, Duval did not grow up using the lob shot and has made no serious effort to work it into his repertoire. That has cost him in the majors. In the '99 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, Duval lost the lead because of poor short-game play, particularly when he skulled a bunker shot and flubbed a chip on the 9th hole on Sunday. His quadruple-bogey 8 on the 71st hole at St. Andrews last summer didn't cost him the title, but his inability to loft his ball over the lip of the Road Hole Bunker—it took him four shots to get out—underscored this deficiency. Until Duval learns the lob, he will remain in a competitive hole as deep as the Road Hole Bunker.