What a difference a day made for David Duval.
The former world No. 1 and would-be Tiger Woods rival who dropped out of sight after a successful four-year run considered withdrawing from this week’s HP Byron Nelson tournament with elbow pain so severe he required an injection. Even then, the 42-year-old winner of 13 PGA Tour events wondered if he should drop out to give someone else an opportunity to tee it up.
The difficulty with the decision is in trying to be fair to the list of alternates. Do t want to start if I can't finish.— David Duval (@david59duval) May 14, 2014
Give someone else a chance.— David Duval (@david59duval) May 14, 2014
Looks like the meds kicked in, because after making birdies on his final three holes on Thursday, Duval sits one shot off Peter Hanson’s lead at 4-under. In fact, following a 66 and prior to Hanson’s late charge, Duval shared the early lead with Marc Leishman.
It has been a long while since Duval’s name appeared that high on a tour leaderboard and it’s been a long road back to the big leagues for someone who was once at the top of his game until, suddenly, he wasn’t. During his 13-win stretch, between 1997 and 2001, Duval won the British Open and notched two runner-ups at the Masters.
It’s difficult to remember that Duval’s moment in the spotlight occurred as Woods was stealing the show on his way to becoming the best player of his generation, if not of all time. And while Tiger has gone on to become, well, Tiger Woods, Duval disappeared.
His last professional victory was at the 2001 Dunlop Phoenix in Japan and his tumble from the top due to numerous health, personal, and financial issues was abrupt and steep. Duval entered this week at No. 890 in the world and as an afterthought to most watchers.
Though many observers believed his playing career was over, Duval has worked his way back into the conversation, sharing second place at the 2009 U.S. Open and finishing second at Pebble Beach in 2010. He has been in contention this season, firing a couple of 67s (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in October, OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November), as well as an opening-round 68 last month at the Zurich Classic (he finished T25), only to fall back down the stretch.
For a day at least, Duval was back atop the leaderboard, carding his best score on tour since 2011. Here’s hoping his elbow can hold up for three more rounds.