All week they tried to figure it out, this place where the wind cracks its cheeks every time it hears the clack of golf spikes, this brown moonscape with its 197 bunkers scattered like shallow graves and its rough so high that Ray Liotta and the 1919 Black Sox might just step out and start playing catch at any moment.
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 fianc�e, 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.