David Duval has made the transition from player to broadcaster smoothly, and this week, he’s back in his old stomping grounds, Ponte Vedra, providing expert opinions on THE PLAYERS, those who are competing and TPC Sawgrass.
As a former champion of THE PLAYERS, he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to navigating the course.
“This golf course favors nobody, and it demands everything from the driver through the putter in the bag and asks of the player to be mentally sharp the entire time, because if you're a little bit wayward on virtually any shot, you have a lot of trouble in front of you,” he explained at THE PLAYERS on Wednesday.
While the long hitters have been dominating the game in recent years, Duval pointed out that isn’t what matters at TPC Sawgrass.
“It opens up the field that much more because of that,” he added. “There's no kind of soft spots amongst the 144 teeing it up.”
Duval likes the move back to March and said he was never a fan of the tournament in May.
“I don't think it played like it was supposed to play,” he said. “I think the grow in for Bermudagrass that time of year can be very iffy. I've been a big proponent of moving it back to March for years.”
What he does agree on is that THE PLAYERS is top-notch.
“It's the best field in golf on, arguably, the best tournament course in golf,” he noted. “If you play here, you win here, you have to have been on top of everything, figure you should know how to do the one thing that matters in this game, and that's shoot a good score.”
Speaking of the field, Duval also commented on a few players, including Rory McIlroy, and his inability to win lately.
“Maybe he's not doing everything he wants to, he's not doing something as much as he wants to,” Duval said. “It's a reflection of the demands of the modern player. He's truly talented.”
Duval added that maybe it’s a situation where McIlroy just keeps getting beat, like the time Duval shot 59 in the final round of the Desert Classic to win. Regardless of the reason, Duval noted that no player wins because it’s “his time.”
“The thought that you're going to, they will get theirs, you know, that Rory will definitely win a Masters and hasn't, that's a fallacy,” he said. “That's promised to nobody, and as each year ticks on, the likelihood gets smaller and smaller. The window keeps closing.”
As for Tiger? Duval said he sees “an appreciation for health” and “the ability to play and compete.”
“I see a person who has grown and aged and matured,” Duval said about Tiger. “We all like to get stuck in a thought that a person from 10 years ago is the same person you are now, and I make the assumption that you would hope you're not the same person you were 10 years ago. “
Duval additionally commented on Woods’ play and swing.
“As far as physically and his game, I think he's playing well,” Duval said. “I think he's swinging well. He looks to me like there's a little bit more rigidity in his golf swing. It's not quite as soft, if you will, but that might be a reflection of all the things he's been through physically.”
As for Duval himself, he has been enjoying being on Golf Channel programs, where he is an expert analyst, and he also enjoys doing play-by-play at tournaments.
“I feel like I'm better, if anything, at the live golf,” he said. “I think experience comes into play more there.”
While Duval has not yet decided whether he will play the PGA Tour Champions circuit, he noted that his body is doing well right now.
“I've had issues virtually everywhere, but back's fine, elbows are okay, shoulders are fine, knees are fine,” he explained.
He added, however, that it’s common for golfers to have physical issues because of what it takes to play the sport.
“See how you feel swinging a metal stick as hard as you can into the ground, basically slamming it in the ground,” Duval said. “You're going to hurt. You're twisting and contorting your back in a motion that's really not designed for it.”