Bob Harig

Injuries, legal woes nagging at Duval

By Bob Harig
Special to ESPN Golf Online
Thursday, March 22

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- David Duval gave up donuts for dumbbells, and aspiring golfers will surely take note. The only thing that has dropped faster than Duval's weight is his World Ranking.

 David Duval
David Duval ranks 124th in putting and 137th in scoring average this season.
As his hometown Players Championship is set to begin, Duval is in a bad way. He was forced to withdraw Thursday with an aching wrist, the result of too much practice two weeks ago. He's not cracked the top 50 in a full-field event this year, having missed two cuts. And he's embroiled in a controversy stemming from a new endorsement deal, legal talk all around.

And Tiger Woods was in a slump?

Wasn't it better to be fat and happy, rather than lean and not so mean?

Just eight months ago, Duval was the No 2-ranked player in the world, still considered the best bet to interrupt Woods' greatness. He made a brief run at Woods during the British Open, despite a bad back that eventually caused him to miss 10 weeks, including the PGA Championship.

Now his wrist is hurting, and even Duval has to wonder if all the pain endured to shed pounds is worth the pain he suffers now.

"It stinks. It's not fun," Duval said. "It seems like I have kind of gotten into a little flow of bad things. I was actually laughing about what happened that day when I hurt my wrist, because it was like, you've got to be kidding me. It's one more thing.

"The best way I can look at it is there's no way that you can keep going. There's no way. I'm looking forward to that upside here soon."

Duval has dropped to No. 7 in the World Rankings. He is 95th on the PGA Tour money list with $135,558, all but $17,000 of that figure coming at the season-opening Mercedes Championship, a limited-field event. He is barely a factor in any of the tour's statistical categories.

This is the same Duval who at one time two years ago had won 11 of 34 PGA Tour events. Now he's got just one victory in the last 23 months.

Adding to his woes is the recent flap with Titleist, the company with which he had an endorsement deal until late last year. Duval opted out of the contract -- his representatives say with legal merit -- because it no longer made him the highest-paid player.

When Davis Love III and Phil Mickelson signed more lucrative deals with Titleist, Duval decided to switched his allegiance to Nike. Titleist has sued, and Duval isn't allowed to talk about specifics.

"I don't want to go as far as saying it's a distraction, but certainly it's not enjoyable to play under those circumstances," Duval said. "I've come to the realization that it might be with me another year or so. There's really no telling how long it's going to drag out."

He doesn't look real comfortable with his swing right now, and he's not making many putts.
Davis Love III

"Is it really the legal problems that are causing David's play?" said Mickelson. "It may just be that he took some time off; it doesn't feel right or the putter is not getting in the hole or whatever it is."

Love said Duval is likely going through a stretch like those experienced by all players.

"He doesn't look real comfortable with his swing right now, and he's not making many putts," Love said. "David is a good player. I don't think this stretch is that big a deal. He's still the same guy."

But wearing different clothes, swinging different clubs. For his part, Duval said the switch to Nike is not the cause of his problems.

"Anytime you make a move (with equipment), there's tinkering," he said. "You've got to get it all set up right. I knew it would be a process. I'm very excited about the equipment, the golf ball, the clubs I'm using. They're exactly what I want."

Whether he uses them effectively at The Players Championship remains to be seen. His wrist was still bothering him Wednesday and he plans to have an MRI if it still gives him trouble. He said he would consider a cortisone shot in order to play in The Masters.

And he might consider a new diet.

"I actually thought I might just go back to the couch and eat Oreos and Doritos," he said.

At this point, how much could it hurt?

Bob Harig, who covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times, writes a column every Tuesday for ESPN Golf Online.