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Gorse Management
Tom Humphries
July 30, 2001
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
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July 30, 2001

Gorse Management

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

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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 r�sum� 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.

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