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    • Duval believes 'timing is right' to win this week

      Former World No. 1 says his swing, body in shape once again

    • David Duval carded a first-round, 4-under 68 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleasns on Thursday. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)David Duval carded a first-round, 4-under 68 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleasns on Thursday. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

    MORE: Leaderboard | Tee times | The Upshot | Duval thinks he can win | Photos | Projected FedExCup

    AVONDALE, La. -- David Duval says he’s playing well enough to win golf tournaments again.

    (This is the part where you roll your eyes and lament that you heard the same thing the past few years.)

    But keep listening.

    “Two or three years ago, I may have been thinking I could win,” he said Thursday from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. “But looking back on it, I wasn’t physically equipped. My game wasn’t good enough. I was a little delusional about how I was playing.”

    Duval, who was on the first page of the leaderboard when he finished, ended up tied for 11th place, six shots behind leader Ben Martin at TPC Louisiana after an opening 4-under 68. It was his first bogey-free round since Round 1 of the 2012 John Deere Classic.

    Playing on sponsor’s exemptions only, Duval has been a man without a schedule. He knows he’ll be playing the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June, but everything in between will be dictated by his play.

    “It’s very difficult, I haven’t played a golf tournament in a month,” Duval said. “Before that, I had another five, six weeks off.”

    Playing an interesting schedule has made for interesting preparation for Duval. After missing out on a Monday qualifier at the Valero Texas Open, he returned home to Denver and thought about what he could do to get ready for this week. He had a special set of clubs made for practice; it only consists of nine sticks (56 degree, 49, 42, 35.5, 28.5, 21.5, driver, 4-wood and putter), which forces him to hit more uncomfortable golf shots.

    The other difference is that he’s gotten out and carried those clubs, making sure to walk during practice rounds, hauling the bag himself. It is part of a dedication he’s made to his fitness (he says he’s down 30 pounds over the past seven months).

    “I’m doing everything I can to be as prepared as I can be when I do get to play,” he said. “Today, there was no fatigue, no anything. I had a spring in my step the whole day.”

    Improved fitness is one thing, but an improved golf swing is much more beneficial. And that’s what Duval believes he’s built with instructor Chris O’Connell. He’s restored his swing path to his comfortable in-to-in motion and is refocused on swinging to the left.

    “I’m not delusional about it now, I know how I’m hitting the golf ball and how I’m swinging the club,” he said. “I feel comfortable. I feel natural again. I feel like the timing is right.”

    As well as Duval is hitting the ball (and he certainly walked the walk Thursday, hitting 16 greens and “never coming close to making a bogey”), wins on the PGA TOUR don’t happen just because you want them to. There are more than 150 other players here this week with similar dedication (and a lot more recent reps). Granted, none of them have ever been ranked World No. 1.

    But Duval isn’t getting ahead of himself. After all, there is no next week for him without a top-10 finish.

    “Is it fair to fully expect to come out here and win this golf tournament after a month off? Maybe not,” he said. “But I’m here to tell you stranger things have happened. I’m hitting the golf ball well enough to do it.”

    David Duval on his 4-under 68

      David Duval on his 4-under 68

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