SOUTHPORT, England -- Just when you thought Greg Norman had the Blast from the Past Award locked up at the 137th British Open, another long-lost tour pro was seen creeping up the leader board Friday afternoon at Royal Birkdale: David Duval.
Ah, yes, remember David Duval. The 2001 British Open champion who had made just one cut in 12 starts on the PGA Tour this year. The former World No. 1 who had broken par just twice in his last 32 rounds. The now World No. 1,075 whose last top-10 on tour came in October 2002.
So what has the 36-year-old done differently this week to explain his 73-69 start, good enough to share fourth place with six other players at two-over 142, three strokes back of leader K.J. Choi? Duval insists the answer is nothing.
"I said it when I've been asked over the course of this year, I'm playing a lot better than my golf has shown," Duval explained after four birdies and three bogeys in the second round. "I just frankly needed to gain some confidence and get a few good things to happen. It's amazing what a good break and a good bounce can do for you."
Rather than point to something that has occurred during the previous five days, Duval says it's the work he has put in since returning to the tour 10 months ago after the birth of his daughter Sienna that's finally coming to fruition. Duval reunited with his former college coach and long-time instructor, Puggy Blackmon, with the goal of finding his form not from the late 1990s/early 2000s, when a creeky back led to swing flaws that ultimately derailed his career, but rather from his college days at Georgia Tech and his early years on tour.
By his own admission, Duval is a different person than he was seven years ago when he claimed the claret jug at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. He has a family now, one that has changed his priorities but also given him perspective.
"I probably don't live it and die it like I did back then," he said. "But I also haven't sought a return to be mediocre. I know what greatness is about and I know what it takes to have greatness. I won't settle for mediocrity. I've been working toward greatness, not just getting back to making cuts and managing to play halfway decent. I've been taking the long route, the hard route and trying to get back to greatness. That story has yet to be told as to whether I can get back to that point, but I'm trying."
A few more pages no doubt could be written this weekend.