07/24/2013

David Feherty would like you to meet David Duval. Presumably, you’ve heard of him before. He’s the man who usurped Tiger to occupy the number one world ranking in golf. He’s the man who won the 2001 Open Championship with the stroke of a divine 6 iron. He’s the man who fired a 59… on a Sunday.

Duval’s rise to dominance came on the back of a pile of victories in short succession. The media hoped that the former Georgia Tech Yellowjacket would offer Tiger Woods a substantial, long term rival.

On the contrary, Duval’s lone Major remains his most recent win. It’s worth repeating: The media drives the narrative. David Duval’s goes something like this: At his peak, he was the best player in the world. But after a series of personal problems that resulted in poor performances, Duval disappeared from the golf world. What could have been? It’s a shame.

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“I’m sick and tired of [it]…People want to correlate my happiness with my golf game”- David Duval to David Feherty.

In Monday’s episode, Feherty helps unravel a man he calls a “mystery.” The result is the most emotionally gut wrenching sixty minutes in the show’s short history.

The pathos of the episode centers on a ten minute segment near the top of the show. Falling from number 1 in the world to 800 is not tragic. Losing an older brother at age 8 is. It’s the toughest bit of “Feherty,” a show that delivers visceral moments on a weekly basis, I’ve ever seen. Duval tells of having to donate blood marrow to his sickly brother in a Cleveland hospital. It’s harrowing- the lack of anesthesia, the length of the needle, the excruciating pain; it all comes back but his brother does not. Duval insists he can’t remember the day his brother died. He can’t remember the funeral. It’s a “self-defense mechanism.”

Throughout this difficult stretch, host and guest alike are on the verge of tears. The dialogue becomes choppy as both are sensitive to the other’s thoughts. Feherty is never at a want for words. Here, he is. Duval struggles to admit that his mother never recovered from the loss. She’s happily buried “this close,” he moves his hands to demonstrate the distance-mere inches apart, “to my brother.”

Wow. Do not mistake this for a golf show.

Although, there is golf to talk about. The turmoil of Duval’s past was always beneath the surface, but it’s hard to fathom how it didn’t effect his career.

He was a reluctant star thrust into a time when the public fixated a perpetual spotlight on golf. He was dismissed as aloof.

In reality, Duval had a practical mindset when approaching golf. He wanted to play the best he could against the best. Success for him was playing well consistently, which in some ways made him the opposite of Tiger, his perceived nemesis (It’s worth noting that Tiger’s name doesn’t come up until some 24 minutes into the run time).

Duval comes off as an ordinary man who played- and insists he can play again- at an extraordinary level. He’s funnier than you might imagine. Duval explains to Feherty that as a junior golfer he was a “Volkswagen: really good around town but wasn’t worth crap on the road.”

When a young fan asked him if he was famous, Duval replied “I used to be.”

And still I can’t help but feel sympathy for the man. Although he’s happily married with a beautiful family- his engagement story starting from his chance meeting with Susie is a highlight of the episode- the golfer still remains an enigma. When he returned to the spotlight at Bethpage Black in 2009, a collective “That can’t really be David Duval, can it?” emerged from the mouths of the viewing public. The media’s Duval left golf a decade ago. The man himself hasn’t.

It’s a rare episode where the guest steals the show from his charismatic host. The result leaves the viewer with as many questions- why the “Blah/Blah/Blah” hat? What explains your game’s collapse if not the emotional struggles?- as answers.

I do know this. You won’t find an hour of sports television, used loosely of course, more worthy of your time than the David Duval “Feherty.”

Dillon Friday

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^Duval Explains Relationship With Tiger

^Duval Pace-of-Play

^What Duval Hated About Being #1