The brave attitude building a revival for Duval

David Duval must laugh whenever anyone refers to him as "the forgotten champion". "If only," he might be tempted to comment. As the 34-year-old has undertaken the golfing version of the sinking of the Titanic since winning the Open Championship five years ago, he has become as infamous as the rusting old hulk.

The difference for Duval is that there has been no ocean at the bottom of which to hide; only a half-decade of scoreboards where he has been there for all to see. He always swore to those with "disaster" on their agendas that he would rise again some day. And here, Hoylake has been witnessing a few more bubbles of life.

A second successive 70 yesterday was hardly enough to trouble the leaders - well, one in particular anyway - but his four-under total did mean that for the first time since Sandwich three years ago he will be around for the weekend. But typical of this man, whose expectations have never dipped so alarmingly as his form, he was not about to start doing high-fives.

"As I've been saying for many months, I'm playing well," he said, referring to a season in which his average score per round has improved by four shots - from 75.56 to 71.55 - from last year. "In fact, I'm playing really well. Today I played well enough to be eight, nine or even 10 under - I've just gotten very little out of it. All I need to do is make a couple of putts."

Many in golf think Duval is owed a couple, although the former world No 1 would not be one of them. During one of the most calamitous slumps in the history of the game, he has never bemoaned his luck, even when the fates have seemingly ganged up on him with merciless regularity. Not once has he ran away.

At the Masters in April, for instance, after an opening 84, his own father - himself a former Tour professional - suggested it could be prudent to scratch and spare himself further torture. But Duval carried on. "What kind of a message would that be to my kids, my fans, anybody else?" he later told Golf Digest, the American magazine. "I had a bad round, shot 84, so I'm going to take my ball and go home, boohoo? I never considered withdrawing, and I don't think my dad really expected me to, either."

After nine holes of his second round it appeared a bad decision. He began with a six, followed it with a 10 and with a 43 on the front nine was back in that lonely precinct called infamy. So how did he end up with a 75 then, and how on earth did he rally himself to come back in a four-under 32? "I straightened it out," he said. "And if it hadn't been for a couple lip-outs, I could have shot 30 or even 29. I look at the glass as half-full."

To everyone else it had been bone dry for an awful long time. As he continues his upward curve, perhaps it is now the polite time to ask what had gone wrong. Injury, is the simple answer; a mysterious back complaint first ruling him out of the USPGA just after his win in Lytham, before getting really nasty. "I can't remember one swing that caused it, or anything," he said. "Anyway, I wound up on the floor at my place in Sun Valley for six weeks. I got up to eat and rehab, but that's it. I was miserable."

Out of such desperation often comes enlightenment and for Duval it was in Japan three years ago. He hesitates to blame his strict working-out regime - which effected a rapid change in body shape - but he is prepared to admit that he had to step back from the weight machine. "There was a time when people told me I was too thin, too gaunt," he explained. "I got down as low as five per cent body fat, my best shape ever. But, if I looked better, I didn't always like the way I felt. I was working out four, five days a week. Lifting, running, the usual. Then a couple of years ago I was in Japan and it struck me: everything seems to hurt."

So the gym-door handle went dusty and so the pain eased, at least enough to allow his swing to heal. "When someone in January mentioned that I looked like I was back in my 'comfort zone', I asked him whether he meant my 'buffet zone'," he joked, something he has always managed to do.

But maybe never as joyously as now. "As bad as things got with golf, I never really thought of quitting the game." That must have been because of days like this. As well as that little thing called hope.

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'