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Shades of greatness: Duval dreams of British Open renaissance

Story highlights

  • Former world No. 1 David Duval will return to the scene of his only major triumph
  • American won the 2001 British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England
  • It was his last victory on one of the major golf circuits before a career slump
  • The 40-year-old has been battling injury problems ever since that win

Golfers dream of winning their first major title -- it brings not only money, fame and a place in the history books, but also the confidence that more success will follow.

David Duval, however, might disagree.

Back in 2001, the American was celebrating his first major championship, delivering an unexpectedly emotional speech at Royal Lytham & St. Annes after his breakthrough win at the British Open.

However, he's still waiting for his next top-level victory, having fallen from the summit of the world rankings to 750th this season after making the halfway cut in just two of 12 starts on the PGA Tour. His last win of any kind was on his 30th birthday at a Japan Tour event in November 2001.

It's grim reading for a man who once shot the holy grail of 59, who has won 13 times on the U.S. circuit and is 40th in the PGA Tour's all-time standings with tournament earnings of almost $19 million.

"Well, a lot of it really comes from injury, when you're fighting a nagging back injury," he told CNN's Living Golf show ahead of this week's return to the English course where he entered his name alongside those of golfing greats.

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    "It's still a problem. It's been 12 years now, started before that year, started in 2000, I've had tendonitis in my shoulders, my wrists, had some knee problems.

    "As a professional golfer you get used to playing with some aches and pains, but when you're playing with aches and pains that impede what you're trying to do it becomes that much more difficult and it can wreck form.

    "And my form was wrecked -- you start hitting the ball crooked and your confidence gets wrecked."

    Against all odds

    Despite his long wait for another victory, Duval still holds out hope that he can again lift a trophy.

    He will make history if he does succeed at Royal Lytham -- the longest gap between British Open victories is 11 years, when Henry Cotton won his second title in 1937 and third in 48.

    For those not affected by World War II, when no tournaments were played, the mark is nine years -- most recently achieved by Gary Player (1959-1968).

    "I still have it in me. It hasn't always lined up as often as it did 10 years ago, but that comes when you lose a bit of confidence -- you get hurt, and it's hard to stay on that path," Duval said.

    "I've put in the time, I've put in the effort. I still have the desire, so I think it could be another great week for me."

    Turning back time

    Duval rolled back the years when he tied for second at the 2009 U.S. Open, but he has not made the cut at the British major since tying for 39th the previous year.

    "I've been working very hard and I feel good about what I've been doing and I feel good about my chances at Lytham this year," the 40-year-old said.

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    "I'm really looking forward to getting there and playing, and there's no reason I can't start over where I got started."

    Duval won by three shots in 2001, and stunned the gallery when he took off his trademark sunglasses and cap to make a heartfelt victory speech.

    "It just came to me. I'd been playing (the British Open) since '95, and this year will be my 16th. My first experience over there at the Scottish Open at Carnoustie before the '95 Open at St. Andrews was a real eye-opener for me," he recalled.

    "The galleries seemed to be that much more knowledgeable about the game, about the difficulty of shots you were facing, and I just kind of took it all in.

    "Just because I wore a hat down low with sunglasses doesn't mean I can't be a nice person, you know I do it for a reason, and I just took them off, had an opportunity to and talked -- and it really did hit me just some of the experiences I'd had over the years there."

    Future's so bright, gotta wear shades

    No matter the gloomy British weather, expect to see Duval back in shades and hat for the July 19-22 tournament in Lancashire.

    "For some reason my eyes seem very sensitive to the light, and I always felt that it's easier to play golf like this than with your eyes squinting, to have them open all the way," he said.

    "I wear contacts when I play. In college I kept getting a lot of dust and pollen in my eyes -- it was an issue and I was the only one to wear contacts -- and that was the impetus to put on a pair of sunglasses."

    Duval expects Lytham's bunker-filled fairways to again pose a major test for the world's top golfers.

    "I don't think it has kind of the reputation or fame of some of the other venues they have -- I'm not quite sure why," he said.

    "The year I won I shot 10 under par and won by three strokes, and we had pretty nice weather, and I think that goes to the strength, the difficulty and the challenge of the golf course. You really do have to place the golf ball around.

    "You have to go around the golf course like that, knowing what you're trying to do, knowing why you're trying to do that, and stick to it."