After first major, Duval takes minor detour

Defending champ thinks recent slump is near end

Notebook

British Open

July 17, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

GULLANE, Scotland - As he hoisted the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham & St. Annes after the final round of last year's British Open to celebrate the first major championship of his career, David Duval seemed to have finally climbed over the hump.

Little did anyone know that the hump would only get larger.

Going into the 131st Open, which begins at Muirfield tomorrow, Duval seems more like an afterthought than the tournament's defending champion. He has missed the cut in the three events he has played since finishing tied for fourth at the Memorial Tournament, including the U.S. Open.

"I don't know if I could list all the reasons," said Duval, who is ranked 81st on the PGA Tour money list. "I lost a bit of focus. I got a little bit too absorbed. But I got sidetracked for different reasons."

Some of them were personal: Duval, 30, split up with his longtime fiancee, Julie McArthur, early in the year.

Some of them were physical: Duval, who has been bothered in recent years with a variety of ailments, has suffered from tendinitis in his right shoulder after a snowboarding accident.

Some of them just had to do with playing mediocre golf: "It's been a pretty bad year for me so far," Duval said.

That is why coming back to the British Open could have a recuperative effect on Duval, as it did at Lytham. There he took a share of the lead with a 6-under-par 65 in the third round, then shot a final-round 67 to win by three strokes over Niclas Fasth of Sweden.

"I certainly can tell you it elevates my spirits being back," Duval said.

"Do I think I'm going to wake up cured tomorrow morning? No, I don't think so. I think I've had four or five bad months and I don't think it will take that long to get back to where I want to be."

Part of Duval's problem this year is an attitude that helped him win at Lytham - that golf was just a game, no matter the level or for what stakes it is being played.

"You're not as enthused about things at times," he said. "It's just the ups and downs. I've played pretty well, obviously not every week, but I've played pretty darn good for nine years as a professional. If I can go another nine or 10 years and have five bad months in that time, I'll be a happy man."

Women's rights at issue

The controversy surrounding access for women to all-male clubs such as Muirfield surfaced yesterday, one week after a similar blowup angered members of Augusta National and club officials running the Masters.

Also, Muirfield has only recently allowed women to enter the clubhouse.

Many of the players have tried to stay clear of getting involved in the controversy, which has received increased coverage here because of threats from the National Council of Women's Organizations to Augusta National with possible action should women continue to be excluded.

"It is unfortunate that is the way," Tiger Woods said yesterday. "But it is just the way it is. There are clubs that are segregated, whether it's sex or race or even age. Those are issues and those are things that have happened and continue to occur and they will continue to exist for a long period of time."

Officials from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, the organization that runs the British Open and also has an all-male membership, are expected to address the issue when R&A secretary Peter Dawson holds his annual pre-tournament news conference today.

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