Will David Duval Fight His Way Back onto the PGA Tour?

Ron Juckett@ronjuckettContributor IIIJanuary 17, 2013

LYTHAM ST ANNES, ENGLAND - JULY 18:  David Duval of the United States speaks with the media during the third practice round prior to the start of the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes on July 18, 2012 in Lytham St Annes, England.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Once upon a time, David Duval was the best golfer in the world.

Between 1997 and 1999, Duval won 11 times on the PGA Tour. During that 1999 season, Duval shot a 59 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in the final round to win it and won the Players Championship.

Probably the closest player to actually match Tiger Woods win-for-win, Duval won his first major at the 2001 Open Championship. Just shy of his 30th birthday, little did we know that that would be his last win on the PGA Tour.

Duval’s game just fell apart. By 2004, he was not even playing on the tour.

Whether it was injuries or personal distractions that derailed such a promising career remains a bit of a mystery.

He did suffer from various ailments. He went through a difficult end to a long-term relationship, and then a difficult pregnancy with his wife.

There were still signs of brilliance.

In 2009, needing to qualify just to get into the championship, Duval finished second in the United States Open. He even had a share of the lead on the 17th tee on Sunday.

Most thought he would give it up. Even when he did get into events, he would miss more cuts than he would make, and eventually Duval could not even keep his tour card.

He is 41 now—not ancient at all by professional golf standards.

It is now commonplace to see golfers who were trying to get themselves in playing shape for the Champions Tour—something they are eligible for when they turned 50—to either contend or win titles.

Duval thinks he can do just that (via ESPN).

His focus for 2013 is to earn his way full-time back on the PGA Tour.

Whether that is either through sponsor exemptions or playing on the Web.com Tour, Duval hopes to win enough money to win back his card for the 2013–14 season.

If his mind is fully into it, the talent is still there to play.

He has just signed a new contract with Nike, like he had before when he won the 2001 Open Championship.

He has also joined the ranks of Twitter. A personality that was always shy and reserved before, Duval seems much more open to his fans and the public this time around.

There will be some bumps and bruises on the road back, there always are, but this time around he seems ready for the challenge.

For a player that seemed to be on the verge of giving Tiger Woods a run for his money in the past, we know Duval has the mental game between the ears to win at the toughest challenges on tour.

The question now is: Can his mind train his body to do what he wants to do? And, most importantly, can he find that magic again that made him the player to beat so long ago?

Tiger Woods would probably be the first to tell you not to bet against him.

In this case, Woods would be right.