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David Duval


Great Rounds at The Open

David Duval at the 2001 Open Championship, a competition he would go on to memorably win

When 2001 Champion Golfer of the Year David Duval woke up on a fine Saturday, July morning in Lancashire, he probably did so with a marginal reluctance to get out of bed.

Duval had experienced a mixed start to The Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes that year, shooting 69 and 73 to leave himself sitting on level par – 35th on the leaderboard – and a considerable seven shots adrift of front-runner Colin Montgomerie.

Indeed his Open prospects looked minimal, while his reputation as golf’s nearly man who permanently lived in the shadow of his brilliant and multiple major-winning compatriot Tiger Woods was only going to be enhanced.

The previous year at St Andrews the American squandered a promising position on the back nine on the final day, lying just three shots behind that man Woods with seven holes to play.

But he then proceeded to stumble at the home of golf, evoking memories of Jean van de Velde at Carnoustie in 1999 as he quadruple-bogied eight in the Road Bunker at the 17th.

History had briefly looked to have been repeating itself on the second day of the 2001 Championship as Duval sat at four under at the halfway mark, taking up 40 shots on the back nine.

“For the first two rounds I played bad but made everything on the greens, then for the last two rounds I played well and still made everything on the greens” david duval

The deflated Duval was candid about his mentality heading into the weekend’s action, admitting that links golf was ‘not fun, but more of a grind’ and visibly despondent as that first major continued to allude him.

But Duval, a fastidious trainer who lifted weights and went running up to six miles per day, had other ideas as he entered the business end of the competition just 12 months on from his 2000 capitulation.

The contemporary world number six went about his business on Day Three of the Championship with alacrity, starting strongly to lay the foundations for an ascent up the leaderboard to propel himself back into contention.

He shot no fewer than six birdies in the opening 13 holes in front of a raucous weekend crowd, leaving him tantalisingly close to a share of the lead with five holes remaining.

He needed just a scintillating 32 shots to get around the first nine, going on to birdie the 10th, 11th and 13th to catapult himself up the standings.

And his birdie at 14 was enough to see him tie for the lead in Lancashire, denting Montgomerie’s fading hopes on a day when the Scot fell to joint-fifth place.

But his momentum diminished at the next hole. Having developed a reputation as the hardest on the course during the opening two days, Duval made his first bogey of the round after finding the heavy rough to the right of the fairway from the tee.

David Duval lifts the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2001.

While he safely navigated his way through the 16th, he encountered further trouble at the penultimate hole, risking undoing all his hard work as the prospect of a final-day lead began to beckon.

Duval’s second shot found a bad lie through the green with the pin cut just yards to the right, only for the American to produce a superb chip that stopped just short of the flag to assuage his concerns and keep him in contention.

And after safely parring the final hole, he was able to cap off a quite spectacular round that left him tied for the lead alongside Alex Cejka, Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer on six under.

After holding his nerve on the final day by carding 67 – to hold off the charge of the resurgent Swede Niclas Fasth for a three-shot lead – Duval made sure that wait for a maiden major title would no longer allude him.

And, in doing so thanks largely to that spectacular Saturday 65, he could not hide his emotion.

“It’s a big relief – the majors are so pressure-packed,” Duval, 39 at the time, reflected.

“Any minor mistake is magnified and I’m very pleased I didn’t let up and kept plugging on.

"For the first two rounds I played bad but I made everything on the greens, then for the last two rounds I played well and still made everything on the greens.

“It's just a game, and I may have made it bigger than it is too at times, and maybe that is some of the reason I felt so good today, that I finally realised it is just a game."

Game or more, Duval’s performance was unequivocally one for the ages, marking the only major title in his career but, in lifting the Claret Jug, an experience he will surely never forget.

And, while those final 18 holes of golf sealed it, it was that majestic 65 that injected the momentum into his push and will surely go down as one of The Open’s finest ever rounds.