Duval finds the even keel

June 22, 2009

When David Duval was adrift in the golf wilderness, it was generally presumed that his issues were as much mental as they were physical, that a man who was once ranked No. 1 in the world could not have had his game go so cockeyed crooked without a head case making a significant contribution.

Last Tuesday, the man on whom Duval has been relying to help him with his head for the last five years, Dr. Mike Lardon, a sports psychiatrist, heard from Duval.

"He left me a great message," Lardon said from his San Diego office. "He felt he had turned a corner and that if he could get a few putts to fall he felt he had a good chance to win the U.S. Open. He was pretty definitive."

He was pretty prescient, too. Duval, who hadn't had a top 10 finish in more than six years, tied for second in the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black on Monday.

"I'm super happy for him," Lardon said. "It was such a long haul. Puggy (Blackmon, his college coach and friend) sent me a text this morning that these last three weeks he had regained that confidence of old. That's a wonderful story."

Duval these days speaks to being in a better place in life; he's married now and a father of two and step father of three.

"He's happy now," Lardon said. "Susie's a great wife. very down to earth. He's got kids and step kids. I think it's a wonderful story. There is more than golf. It's really something I preach as a sports psychiatrist, that your competitive life often is a reflection of the life you lead. He's filled out his life now."

On Saturday, Lardon sent Duval a text message, complimenting him on his focus and reminding him of what he calls the paradoxical prize, that it isn't the trophy, it's simply the shot at hand.

"He looked relaxed to me, "Lardon said. "Obviously, he's found his comfort level, he's feeling well again. I would imagine david playing some serious golf the rest of this year."

-- John Strege