David Duval Plays Through the Pain

After Thursday’s first round, there were a couple of surprises at the top of the HP Byron Nelson Championship at the TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.

The first is Peter Hanson who ended up at 5-under with a one-shot lead over David Duval, Marc Leischman and Tim Wilkinson. You see Hanson at the top of the leaderboard from time to time, but this one ended up being a little heroic. He came in with a nagging bad back and couldn’t even play the back nine in practice: 

“I had a rough build‑up to this week, came off a good result in New Orleans a couple of weeks back and then I had a back injury that held me off the golf course pretty much all last year and it flared up again at Quail. So I had to pull out of Quail Hallow and spent all last week in Orlando doing [spinal] decompression treatments.”

“I played nine holes on Friday, was supposed to fly out here on Monday and the flight got cancelled and I was on a 6:30 flight Tuesday morning. I played 16 holes Tuesday, and had a great time with one of the sponsors of the event, played three holes in the afternoon with Chad Campbell, that was a great outing.”

“I actually went up and practiced for a few hours [Wednesday] and walked the back nine during the Pro‑Am.  Tried to stay out of everybody’s way.  Sometimes it’s actually good to, like I said, walk the golf course, we didn’t hit any shots, you tried to figure out, this is where I’m going to position my golf ball and this is the way to play this hole.  Not a bad way to prep.”

He was 5-under on the front and held it together on the back.

But David Duval’s 4-under round was probably more impressive. Once World No. 1 and a British Open winner, nagging injuries have left him unable to get into a lot of tournaments anymore, so he plays in a perpetual state of rustiness:

“The difficulty I face in the lack of consistency is in getting to play.  The next — I have tomorrow’s round of golf in front of me.  After that the next golf tournament I know of is Memphis.  So it’s a little harder that way.”

“You can play and practice all you want at home, however, there is a thing to competition and putting a peg in the ground and putting a pencil to it and playing with the ‘big boys.’

“So although a little disadvantage when you don’t get to play consistently, makes it a little more difficult, but I have the utmost confidence in what I’m trying to do right now and I feel like I can succeed even with that sporadic schedule.”

So when a fluke arm injury flared up out of nowhere this week, he felt that he had to find a way to play anyway. It was pretty amazing that he was able to just do that; the 4-under round was a bonus:

“I really don’t know what happened.  It’s a muscle issue, it’s not a tendon, it’s not tendonitis, anything like that.  I saw the guys in the [PGA Tour] trailer, they did a lot of things checking it out, a lot of little tests.  I went and saw an orthopedic surgeon. My coach lives here and he got to an ER doctor friend of his and he was willing to see me and he said if I’m going to be able to help him I have to see him tonight.  There was nothing I did that made me feel it and have problems.”

“I started hitting golf balls when I got down here on Tuesday, and basically couldn’t move my arm after about 20 or 30 balls and went and had it worked on and it helped.  Then I tried to play a few holes, played about six holes and it started getting bad and then I went in there that night and had the injection. [Wednesday] I was going to play 9 holes down the street from here, got through 20 golf balls and couldn’t move my arm again so I came over here and did the same thing, got some more work done on it.”

“This morning I hit about 20 or 30 — maybe 20 balls, didn’t feel so good, so I went in the trailer and got some more work done on it.”

“I’m tickled pink it feels as good as it does right now.  It was not good and, you know, I’m not getting to play a whole lot right now and it would have been a hard thing to swallow not to be able to tee off.”

That was a good distance from where he was on Wednesday: he couldn’t even drive his car:

“It’s hard to describe how — I feel like I have a fairly high threshold — tolerance of pain, you know. But yesterday when we got done hitting balls, my oldest boy who was caddying for me, he had to drive.  I was like, I can’t drive a car.  I can’t use my right arm.  So he had to drive us back.”

“I’m lucky to have had it feel better as the day went on.  Like I said, not 100% by any stretch but a 1000% better than it was.”

The injection he had was supposed to kick in over 24 to 48 hours. As I write this, Duval was even par through 7 with a bogey and a birdie…and then bogeyed 8, 9 and 10.

As a post script, we sometimes get upset with ourselves when we lose our way in the game. When it’s really bad, we almost think of it as a character defect. Well, good news. It doesn’t just happen to us. Listen to what Duval had to say about his “lost years:”

“It’s not like I’ve played great golf for a while.  And I can sit here and tell you, yeah, there’s a difference [now].  The glimmers of great play, I’ve shown over the course of a few years, were simply that, glimmers.”

“And as I started working on my game with Chris [O’Connell] here in Dallas and he started to help me swing the golf club like I used to, I looked back at it and for lack of a better word I was delusional about how I was playing.  I wasn’t swinging well, I wasn’t close to playing well, now I’m not [delusional.]”

“I’m swinging well and hitting quality golf shots and I’m doing good things.  I’m hoping that through more rounds of golf and more starts that this is — we [Duval and the media] will become reacquainted again.”

Hard to believe, I know. But even world-class players get lost in the wilderness. So take heart and keep working on it.

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