Duval rusty as he tees it up for Father-Son Pro-Am

David Duval at the Open Championship.

David Duval at the Open Championship.

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ORLANDO, Fla. – A good friend of mine, a professional golfer years ago but now somehow listed as a 9 handicap, played with David Duval on Thursday morning in the PNC Father-Son Pro-Am. So the banter on the first tee went thusly:

Me: “Double D, you are playing today with the best 9-handicap in the history of golf.”

Duval, laughing: “Well, maybe I am.”

The back story behind Duval’s self-deprecation is this: His game is rusty and his body is a bit battered. So perhaps part of him felt more like an amateur than a major champion here at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club.

Duval, of course, has battled various injuries for a dozen years, starting with a back problem that cropped up a week before the 2000 British Open. As if he hadn’t gone through enough, he suffered a freak injury, a broken right foot, during the first week of September.

“Did it chasing my kids,” he said.

The result was a V crack on his second toe. He wore a boot for weeks and didn’t touch a club for three months, until a charity event two weeks ago in Jacksonville.

“I started the year with a bone bruise on my knee and finished it with a broken foot,” Duval said. “Tough year.”

Duval, playing 2012 on past-champion status and sponsor exemptions, had looked forward to competing in fall tournaments on the PGA Tour. And he was set to go back to Tour Q-School. But the foot kept him from those appearances.

“I’ve gone to Q-School the last couple of years,” said Duval, 41, whose 13 Tour victories include the 2001 British Open. “I’m (not) afraid of going like some players. Not being able to go because of the circumstances sucks.”

So he’s back to where he left off. That means trying to find his game, trying to get healthy and trying to get in tournaments via sponsor exemptions, if not past-champion status. The former means writing letters to and calling tournament directors.

“It’s up to me to get more fit and be ready to play when I can play,” he said.

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