In 1998, David Robert Duval won the PGA Tour’s money title and Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average. In 2001, he won the Open Championship. Two years later, he was off the PGA Tour.
Born in Jacksonville, Florida on this date in 1971 to a father who was a golf instructor and mother who, while in college, was part of the flying Trapeze act with Florida State University’s circus. Duval spent much of his childhood on the golf course. He received his first golf club—a cut down eight iron—from his father at eleven months old and won his first tournament, in Tallahassee, when he was nine. Duval pitched and played third base for his Little League team, leading them to the league title while he was in grade school. His brother, Brent, was diagnosed with aplastic anemia—the failure of bone marrow to produce normal blood cells—at age 12 and David, who was nine, donated bone marrow for his brother. The transplant was unsuccessful and Brent died in May of 1981. The loss led to his parents’ divorce and Duval sought solace at the golf course, breaking 70 for the first time when he was 14 in route to winning the city amateur title. He graduated from Episcopal High School in 1989 and won the U.S. Junior Amateur in El Cajon, California later that year.
Duval enrolled at Georgia Tech University, alma mater of the great Bobby Jones, in the fall of 1989 and was a four-time first-team All-American. As a junior and senior, he was named ACC Player of the Year and earned National Player of the Year honors as a senior in 1993. Duval qualified for the U.S. Open as an eighteen year old, making the cut and tying for 56th. Two years later, he led the Atlanta Open after 54 holes before shooting a final round 79 to lose to Tom Kite by two shots. Duval played in two Eisenhower Trophy matches—a biennial world amateur team competition—and finished second in both. He led the United States to the 1991 Walker Cup over Great Britain & Ireland in 1991 and turned professional following his graduation from Georgia Tech in 1993.
Mr. Duval played in nine Nike [now Web.com] Tour events in 1993, making the cut eight times, and ended the year with two wins and five top-ten finishes. The following season, he made 17 cuts in 22 starts with ten top-ten finishes. Duval earned his PGA Tour card in 1995, and won over $ 880,000 [11th on the money list], which was quite a contrast to the $ 44,006 he had earned on the Nike Tour just one year earlier. He qualified for the 1996 President’s Cup team, going 4-0-0 to help the U.S. defeat the International Team. David Duval’s first PGA Tour win came in October 1997, when he claimed the Michelob Championship at Kingsmill. He won the next two tournaments that month, including the season-ending Tour Championship, and became [at that time] the fastest player to earn $ 1 million on Tour. Duval’s breakout season came in 1998, when he won four events—including the World Series of Golf—along with the money title and Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average. He opened the 1999 season with a nine-stroke victory over Mark O’Meara to win the Mercedes Championships. Two weeks later, he eagled the final hole to fire a final-round 59 in a come-from-behind win at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Duval’s ball-striking was so precise during that round that his 11 birdies came from a total distance of 54 feet—less than five feet per putt. That same day, his father, Bob–who was competing on the Champions Tour–won the Emerald Coast Classic, the first time the PGA Tour crowned father and son champions on the same day. Two months later, David Duval won the Players Championship and overtook Tiger Woods as the top-ranked player in the world. The following week, he won the BellSouth Classic, the same tournament he had blown in the final round as an amateur in 1992 and finished the year with a career-best $3,641,906 in earnings.
Bob Duval described his son as a “focus freak” and “serious SOB” on when competing on the golf course. David won 11 events in 34 starts from the end of 1997 to early 1999 and, along with Woods, dominated professional golf. He won the Buick Challenge in October of 2000—his only win of the year—and dropped to number seven in the world rankings. Nine months later, he won the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes to claim the only major championship of his career. It would be the final PGA Tour win of Duval’s career, as injuries and medical conditions led to his dropping to 80th on the money list in 2002 and 211th in 2003, prompting an extended break from the game. Duval attempted several comebacks in the ensuing years, finishing second in the 2009 U.S. Open as well as 2010 AT&T at Pebble Beach, but never regained his old form.
David Duval won 13 events on the PGA Tour and 19 overall as a professional. He played in three Presidents Cups, two Ryder Cups, two World Cup matches and won nearly $ 19 million on the PGA Tour. He also won over $ 3,346,000 on the European Tour between 1995 and 2001. Mr. Duval was inducted into the Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013 and joined the Golf Channel as a studio analyst in 2015.