Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Duval's Mental Resolve Second to None

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Duval's Mental Resolve Second to None

Article excerpt

Fear not, Jacksonville. The world's No. 1 golfer and one of your favorite sons won't get burned at the U.S. Open because of an untimely touch of a teapot.

If anybody has the mental resolve to win his first Grand Slam tournament while playing with a different kind of hot hand, it's David Duval. He deals with adverse circumstances about as well as anyone on the PGA Tour, and recent history backs that up.

Duval has a competitive streak that is hidden almost as well as someone in a witness-protection program. That's why he will win multiple majors before his career approaches its sunset.

Think of the most memorable gutting-it-out moments in sports history: a flu-ridden Michael Jordan in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, a hobbling Kirk Gibson hitting the game-winning home run in the 1988 World Series opener, a Jack Youngblood playing Super Bowl XIV on a broken leg.

Not that Duval playing this Open with scalded fingers is the same thing. But he has a kind of tenacity about him, something inside that wills him to perform -- and perform well -- in situations that might ordinarily defeat other players.

Remember The Players Championship? Guys whining about the speed of the greens and the impossible conditions when the wind finally kicked up? Duval won that tournament with easily the highest-winning score -- 3-under par -- this season.

Two weeks ago, unbeknownst to the media, Duval went into the Memorial Tournament not feeling totally right physically. In training just before that event, Duval suffered an inflamed and swollen right Achilles tendon while running.

"He couldn't hit full shots for four or five days," said Duval's father, Bob, a Senior PGA Tour player.

So what does Duval do at the Memorial, which featured one of golf's toughest fields? He makes a brief run at winner Tiger Woods on Sunday before finishing in a third-place tie.

He didn't bring up the Achilles because, in Duval's mind, that was a non-factor. Whether he finished strong or missed the cut was inconsequential. He played hurt, so what? To reveal the injury, no matter how it impacted his play, would have created the perception that he was holding onto a ready-made excuse.

Duval doesn't play that game. He just plays on.

Now if today were the start of the Buick Classic and not the U.S. Open, it's quite possible that Duval might have pulled out last Friday when his fingers blistered up after reaching for that teapot.

But since Duval already has gone on record as saying this is the tournament he most wants to win, it's no surprise that the Tour's mentally toughest player is teeing it up. And not only is he refusing to use the injury as any kind of crutch, Duval is practically ordering people to downplay its significance.

"It's all speculation right now," Duval said Tuesday. …

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