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Sunday, 22 July, 2001, 19:17 GMT 20:17 UK
No longer the nearly man
Duval savours his Open triumph
The claret jug tastes sweet to the new Open champion
John Sinnott profiles the latest player to join golf's elite.

David Duval, for so long a supporting actor in the cast of world golf, finally took centre stage on Sunday at Lytham to claim his first Major title.

Winning The Open means he has at last shrugged off the tag of golf's nearly man.

Last year he was only three shots behind Tiger Woods with nine holes to play in The Open at St Andrews - only to fall back to 11th place by running up a quadruple-bogey eight in the Road Bunker at the 17th.

  David Duval factfile
1971: Born November 9, Jacksonville, Florida
1991: Plays in British Amateur Championship and Walker Cup
1993: Turns pro; finishes 11th on money list
1997: Wins last three events of year to finish second in official earnings
1999: Becomes world number one; first US Tour player to win $2m in season
2001: Wins first Major, the Open at Royal Lytham
In the 1998 Masters Duval's final-round 67 had seemed good enough to get him into a play-off, but Mark O'Meara, with birdies on 17 and 18, snatched the title at the very last.

At this year's Masters it was a case of deja vu for Duval as Woods won his fourth Major title in a row by just two shots.

On Augusta's 16th hole on the final day, Duval had seemingly hit a wonder seven-iron shot towards the pin.

He could only watch in horror as the ball flew past the hole and over the green.

In the last four years at the Masters Duval, as well as finishing second twice, has also claimed a third and a sixth place.

Each time he made major mistakes on the back nine which meant that he didn't get to try out the green jacket for size.

After his most recent Augusta disappointment Duval wondered just what he had to do to beat the Tiger. Now the new Open champion has finally silenced golf's big beast.

Duval concentrates at the final hole
Duval eyes his final putt
No doubt the victory for Duval, who is extremely careful about what he eats, will have an extra special taste.

While his closest challengers faded away, the Floridian just got stronger and stronger.

Duval, who lifts weights and goes running for up to six miles a day, believes that you need to have an extremely disciplined approach to the game of golf.

He has said that weight lifting has improved his posture and has also allowed him to gain more than half a club in distance.

Duval, who came to Lytham as the world number six, has not only had to deal with sporting disappointment.

He was only nine when his 12-year-old brother Brent died of a blood disease.

Even more painfully Duval's bone marrow matched Brent's but, transplanted, did not accept its new environment.

Soon after his brother's death Duval's parents separated.

A man who keeps himself to himself, Duval could be forgiven for shouting from the rooftops in celebration at this first Major triumph.

The 130th Open, at Royal Lytham

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