A place in the field for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is highly coveted, but very few players would have gone to the extraordinary lengths David Duval did in order to compete in this week’s tournament.
Duval had planned to return to his native Denver after playing in last week’s 70th Open d’Italia Lindt, but having received a sponsor’s invitation to the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday night, he was suddenly faced with a dilemma.
The former Open Champion explained: “My first problem was trying to arrange transport here, and the other was trying to arrange transport home for my wife [Susie], because I had only planned on staying for one week. We had a companion pass – most people call it a buddy pass back home – so if I didn’t get on the plane to go back to Denver, they wouldn’t let her on either.
“So I hopped on a plane at six in the morning to fly from Turin to Frankfurt. Of course, we then had a five or six hour delay in Frankfurt, which turned it into 26-hour travel day. I had a little dinner, a glass of wine and then went to bed, slept for about six hours, got up, did some laundry, packed my bags and hopped on a plane back from Denver to Scotland. I only arrived on Wednesday morning, so it’s been a very adventurous trip to get here! But that just shows how much I wanted to come.”
Making a 10,502 mile round trip instead of flying 890 miles direct from Turin to Edinburgh is certainly going above and beyond the call of duty, but such is the appeal of playing on three of the world’s finest links courses.
Duval showed his liking for links golf in 2001, when he prevailed by three shots at Lytham & St Annes to record his first – and so far only – Major triumph. And whilst he has suffered more than his fair share of misfortune since then, the former Ryder Cup star still retains his boyish enthusiasm when discussing his previous visits to the ‘Home of Golf’.
“I think I played four Open Championships at St Andrews, and loved every single one. I also played The Scottish Open at Carnoustie, and I’ve played two Opens there. But today was my first look at Kingsbarns, which I enjoyed very, very much.
“I also very much enjoy the format of the week. I’ve always been a big supporter of our tournament back home, the AT&T at Pebble Beach, which is basically the same type of tournament as this one. I’m a big believer that this type of tournament, where the amateurs get to compete with the pros in the actual competition, are very important for the health of professional golf.”
Duval’s own health has caused him problems in the past, which has in turn contributed to his slide down the World Ranking, from the very top to his current position of 1,546th.
But the 41 year old is determined to regain at least some of the form which saw him win 13 titles on the US PGA Tour, and top the Money List in 1998.
He said: “My game feels good. That’s the reason why I came back – because I’m playing good golf again. I spent seven months putting my golf swing back together with [coach] Chris O’Connell, and now it’s time to play. That’s why I made such an effort to get here.”