David Duval returns to Bethpage Black this week, not as a competitor but as a television commentator for the Golf Channel, one who will be waxing eloquently about this "beast" of a course.
It was at Bethpage in the 2009 U.S. Open that Duval made his last stand in a major tournament, finishing in a tie for second with Phil Mickelson and Ricky Barnes behind champion Lucas Glover.
His career had been on the downturn for years at the time, impacted by injuries to his back, wrist and neck. And despite that encouraging finish, he would never again be the player who was briefly No. 1 in the world in the late 1990s and won the British Open in 2001.
Duval was a force as a competitor, winning 13 PGA Tour titles from 1997 to 2001. The Open Championship was his last PGA Tour victory and after a victory in Japan in November 2001, Duval essentially disappeared.
At the 2009 Open on the Black course he was tied for the lead with two holes to play. But both his chip for birdie and 5-foot par putt on the 17th lipped . The second-place finish was his best on the Tour since the British Open win eight years earlier.
The man who played in dark glasses and a baseball cap could go incognito off the course by simply removing them. Now, with thin-rimmed regular specs and a chin of whiskers, he looks rather professorial. As a television analyst, that is sort of his job.
Coincidentally, the Golf Channel Studio set that he now occupies is just off the 17th green for this year’s PGA Championship. Early Tuesday night as he prepared to go on the air, he evinced a certain awe about the Black Course.
“I love this place,” Duval said. “I get asked what’s your favorite course. I don’t have a favorite but I can list four or five, and this is always on the list. It’s a man’s golf course, it’s an absolute beast, a monster. It’s spread out, massive elevation changes, difficult sight lines, makes you do different things with the golf ball. It tests physicality with the walk around this course. It’s everything you want in a championship golf course.”
He hasn’t been competitive in years, but that doesn’t lessen his competitive nature and a desire to be out between the ropes at Bethpage.
“I would certainly love to be playing and competing on the course this week,” Duval said. “Although not yesterday or today. It’s way too cold.”
Duval does 12 to 15 events a year for the Golf Channel while still feeling he’s a player.
“I think of myself as a golfer,” Duval said. “I analyze and commentate from a golfer’s perspective. I try to help the fan understand what the player is trying to accomplish and what they are going through.”
At age 47, Duval isn’t certain whether he has a competitive future just three years away from eligibility for the Champions Tour. He hasn’t made a cut on the PGA Tour in limited appearances since 2015.
“I really don’t know, I haven’t though that far down the road,” Duval said. “I’m just trying to do the best job I can for the viewer, add my two cents worth of experience having competed at the highest level.
“And I can certainly tell them about this place. I absolutely love it.”
The man certainly sees beauty in the beast.