Duval goes where he’s never been to find game

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) - The text message from David Duval arrived just as the Americans began to seize control for good in the Presidents Cup. The last time it was held at Royal Melbourne, he was the top qualifier for the U.S. team.

On this day, Duval was headed home from a place he never wanted to be.

“Just have to sack up sometimes,” he wrote. “It can be bumpy climbing to the top.”

At least he was willing to start at the bottom. For the former No. 1 player in the world, whose 14 wins include the British Open, that meant going to the second stage of Q-school. Duval closed with a 70 and was the runner-up at Bear Creek Golf Club in Murrieta, Calif., easily advancing to the final stage next week.

What made this so compelling was Duval’s brutal honesty only a month earlier.

He was on the practice range at the McGladrey Classic, barely inside the top 150 on the PGA Tour money list and not willing to think about the consequences. Duval already had used his two exemptions from the career money list. He didn’t mind going back to the final stage of Q-school, for he had done that only two years earlier.

To fall outside the top 150, however, would give him two options _ go to the second stage of Q-school, or get limited starts as a past champion and spend the rest of the year asking for handouts.

Neither was terribly appealing, especially the second stage of Q-school.

“You find out what kind of ego you have,” Duval said that day. “I’ll go to the Q-school final if I have to. I think I owe it to myself to do that. But I won’t go to second stage. I just can’t. Do you know what I mean?”

Sea Island was to be his last tournament because he had accepted an invitation to play in Malaysia. Duval missed the cut, then showed up at Disney for the final official event of the year. He narrowly missed the cut again, and wound up at No. 152 on the money list.

He withdrew from Malaysia and headed home to Denver.

“It took a little bit of soul searching,” Duval said. “At that point, I had to be pretty honest with myself and where my head was and my attitude was and make some adjustments. I just decided after a little bit of time and some reflection that this is what I want to do and what I’m good at. I’m still good at it. It’s not showing right now.

“So I had to go show it somewhere else.”

That somewhere turned out to be in California against 74 players on a golf course far away from Royal Lytham, TPC Sawgrass, Kapalua, La Costa and some of the other courses where he once won against the best in golf. Duval reached No. 1 in the world in the spring of 1999 while winning 11 times in 34 starts, a winning rate only Tiger Woods could understand.

Where his game went remains a mystery even to him. He only likes to talk about his quest to get it back.

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