LYTHAM ST ANNES, England (Reuters) - David Duval returns to Lytham a completely different man from the one who enjoyed the highlight of his career when he won the British Open on the north Lancashire links 11 years ago.
The former world number one has endured a dreadful form slump since, failing to win a PGA Tour event let alone a second major championship.
Duval finished in the top 125 in the U.S. money list in 2010 for the first time since 2002 and has plummeted to 775th in the world rankings.
But he is very happy with his lot in life.
“My life in general has blown up exponentially in a wonderful way with meeting my wife, having an instant family with stepchildren, having a couple of kids of my own biologically. I’ve got my oldest boy here,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
“I think I‘m incredibly blessed in life. I‘m an entirely different person. Back then it was all about me and all about golf, just like the majority of people that have marched through here this week.”
Duval, 40, thinks most of his rivals are self-obsessed.
“It revolves around them, everything. Their handlers, their trainers, their nutritionists, their managers,” he said.
“I’ve been fortunate in my life to be able to kind of branch out and understand there’s some things that are a little more important than this.”
Duval still enjoys playing golf for a living.
“It does not mean I don’t love it, don’t think I‘m really good at it, and don’t think I‘m going to be really great at it again and don’t desire to be,” he said.
“Life has opened up to me and I love it and enjoy it and embrace it.”
Duval has not been back to Lytham since lifting the Claret Jug 11 years ago.
“I have fond memories, obviously,” he said.
”That’s one of the unique things of the Open. The U.S. Open, the U.S. PGA, you don’t always get back to where you won very quickly.
“So although I haven’t won this golf tournament for 11 years, I‘m kind of thought of in a weird way as defending because I‘m back at my site,” said Duval.
“It was kind of cool to see my name just on the club board, in the gold ink on the wood, along with the other tournaments they have and stuff.”
Duval was not keen to revisit the reasons for his extended form slump.
”Over the last 11 years golf‑wise I’ve had a few good events,“ he said. ”I’ve had plenty of injuries and problems, haven’t played well.
“I have an arm brace right now, I’ve got bone bruises in my knee right now so I‘m still hurting. I don’t feel the greatest but I‘m playing quite well.”
Duval hopes to rediscover the form and composure which earned him a final-round 67 and a three-shot victory over Sweden’s Niclas Fasth 11 years ago.
”I played beautifully in 2001. I didn’t feel like I was playing my best golf. I putted and chipped it quite well. But I managed myself and I felt like I was going to win the golf tournament.
“So it was a great week. It was fun and I was very proud of how I played on the Sunday.”
Editing by Tony Jimenez