William K. WolfrumThis Week at TravelGolf.com: November 22, 2005

David Duval battles gremlins
and Steve Blass Syndrome in Japan

It was 1972 and pitcher Steve Blass had it all. Having just turned 30, Blass was the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates staff, just won his 100th Major League Baseball game, was a key part in the Pirates' 1971 World Series victory and was coming off a sterling season that saw him go 19-8 with a 2.49 ERA and 11 complete games.

The road to the Hall of Fame was paved for Blass but in 1973 he just plain forgot how to pitch. Known for pinpoint control, Blass, who was healthy, stopped being able to throw strikes in games. Over the next two years Blass went 3-9 with a dismal ERA near 10. Two years after owning the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, Blass was done and "Steve Blass Syndrome" was born.

Other baseball players have encountered SBS over the years, few having much success digging out of it. Rick Ankiel and Mark Wohlers come to mind. Golf has had its SBS sufferers, as well. See: Curtis Strange.

This weekend, David Duval may have taken a huge stride in becoming one of the few to (we hope) throw off the shackles of SBS. After a brilliant start at the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament in Miyazaki, Japan, Duval limped home with a 71-75 over the weekend. But it was good enough to leave him tied for seventh.

To say this could be a major breakthrough for Duval is not hyperbole. As most are aware, Duval was the top player in the world not to long ago. He has a British Open victory on his resume, as well. But then, it was gone.

This year, in 20 tournaments entered on the PGA Tour, Duval made one cut. One. His winnings? A little over seven grand. Our own Chris Baldwin almost put up the same numbers this year. Basically, for Duval, the last few years he's been ensconced with SBS. A back injury started it, more injuries compensating for the back problems continued it, eventually eroding his confidence.

Obviously, it's overly hopeful to start proclaiming that Duval is back, but he is playing better, something that seemed highly unlikely just a few months ago. Regardless, throughout his ordeal he's kept working at getting it all back. That he even entered 20 tournaments this year is impressive.

At 34, the window has been slightly opened again for Duval. Who knows if it will ever fully open again - Steve Blass Syndrome doesn't cure easily. But from what we know of, and have seen from Duval, one thing is certain: He'll keep trying. And for this he deserves our respect and cheers. As TravelGolf.com reader Shanks wrote: "What he has been doing could be in Websters as a definition of persevere."

As always, TravelGolf.com welcomes your comments.

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