Someone recently asked me, “who are the greatest golfers in the last 20 years?” I rattled off names like Tiger, Phil, Rory, Ernie, Vijay, and more. However, the name David Duval failed to cross my mind. In hindsight, it absolutely should have, but it is amazing how far he has fallen in such a short time. Naturally, being the golf-buff that I am, I wanted to investigate his past to see what exactly has happened to sweet-swingin David Duval.

Like many great golfers, David was born in Florida, and was the son of a club professional. He received his PGA Tour card in 1995 after being named ACC Player of the Year, twice, as well as National Player of the Year in 1993. Prior to being a 4-time All American at Georgia Tech, David also won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 1989. Not a shabby amateur career.

David had early success on the tour finishing in 2nd place seven times in his first two years, while going 4-0-0 in his first Presidents Cup in 1996. His first win came in October of 1997, which he used to propel himself into the winner’s circle of the next two events as well, including the 1997 Tour Championship. David then went on to lead the money list in 1998, was #1 in the Office World Golf Ranking in April of 1999, and shot a 59 in the final round of the 1999 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. That stretch still stands as one of the greatest runs in golf history. David even made it to the cover of Sports Illustrated in April of 1999, with the headline reading “David Duval is On Fire.”

Then the wheels fell off. After his Open Championship win in 2001 he fell to 80th on the money list in a two year span, and eventually down to 434th in 2004. This fall from grace was in part due to back, wrist, and shoulder injuries, but he also battled private issues off the course. David split from long time girlfriend in early 2002 after being together for 8 years, which severely hindered his mental strength on the golf course. His calm demeanor and lack of emotion that fans viewed as a strength in his prime, was now portrayed as sadness. He was answering questions after every round about his struggles, which as we all know from Tiger’s struggles, is something that consumes the mind of a golfer.

Fortunately, in 2003 David met a lady by the name of Susan Persichitte at a Denver Restaurant, who he married in 2004 and have two children together. David has said Susan is the reason he has been able to get his life back in order while attempting to make numerous comebacks on tour. However, that “comeback” has not been as fruitful as David has hoped. You can still find his name on the 3rd and 4th pages of the leaderboard at times, but he is no longer a force to be reckon with on tour.

Duval, 42, had announced in December of 2013 via Twitter that he may retire from the tour after the 2014 season if he “doesn’t start performing.” In another tweet, Duval wrote that if he failed to retain his tour card he would no longer ask for exemptions into tournaments. As a golf fan, it saddens me to know that the reign of dominance for any pro athlete is so fragile, and it just goes to show that the window is so small the elite to be on top.

I would love to hear your thoughts on similar stories you feel have fallen under the radar in recent years, as topics like this intrigue me to no end.