NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – On a day that was destined to be one of the most anticlimactic in Ryder Cup history, a nugget fell that was well worth coming to hear Jim Furyk name Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods as his first three captain’s picks.
After the obvious, Furyk announced that he had selected David Duval as a vice captain.
So, how did that come about?
Duval, a former world No. 1, may be one of the best analysts in golf, yet his Ryder Cup experience is limited to just two appearances.
In 1999, during the “Miracle at Brookline” when the U.S. rallied from four points down in Sunday singles to defeat Europe, 14½-13½, Duval contributed with a 5-and-4 victory against Jesper Parnevik.
It was the sixth consecutive match won by the U.S. and set the stage for Justin Leonard’s iconic arms-raised celebration after an improbable birdie putt at No. 17.
At the time, Duval, 27, seemed destined to play in many more Ryder Cups. He would get only one more chance, though, in 2002 at The Belfry, where the U.S. lost, 15½-12½.
So how did it come about? Why Duval, and what will he bring to the Sept. 28-30 matches at Le Golf National near Paris?
It may have started in 1999, when Duval was on the same team with Furyk. At the time, Furyk was 29 and playing in his second Ryder Cup while Duval was a rookie.
Since then, the two have maintained a solid friendship and were even teammates at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans earlier this year, missing the cut by one stroke.
“He brings a lot to the table,” Furyk said of Duval, whose 13 Tour victories include the 2001 British Open. “One, he comes from a different perspective; two, he doesn't sugarcoat things. David's a good friend but he's blunt and he's honest, and I want him to be that way. I don't want him to be the yes man.”
Duval’s appointment might have resulted from Woods having earned a spot on the team, an unlikely scenario earlier this year when Woods was picked as an assistant captain. Woods, 42, underwent a fourth back surgery last year and hadn’t competed in a year before returning to the Tour in January.
Given the Duval-Woods kinship, Duval could be a valuable addition to the team room.
“He has a significantly good relationship with a number of guys on the team, Tiger being one of them, that I felt like he was going to be really good as a vice captain,” Furyk said, “and it's gone over really well.”
It also could be because of Duval’s spirted defense of “execution” versus “leadership” in a heated discussion with fellow TV analyst Brandel Chamblee on the Tuesday of Ryder Cup week in 2016.
Duval, taking the “execution” position, went back and forth with Chamblee and then finally had enough.
Duval: "Well, having actually been out there and done it, there's more to it than just what the stats say."
Chamblee: "You think that actually having to be out there to do it determines whether or not you can pass judgment on it or not? I wasn't at the Boston Tea Party, but I can tell you all about it."
Duval: "OK, well, I know you're never wrong. I understand that."
The entire U.S. team reportedly watched the Chamblee-Duval tête-à-tête.
“That argument between the two of them happened while we were in our team room, and Phil happened to be sitting in front of the TV, listening and watching,” Jordan Spieth said. “When he came in, everyone was just so pumped because of just kind of the backing and support. It was great for someone like Phil because he knows David so well and respects him so much. I don't really know David that well; I know him from that week, and that's about it. But it just meant so much more to those older guys. They just loved always being around him and that.”
Davis Love III, who captained the 2016 U.S. team, texted Duval to see where he was after the show. Duval responded that he was arriving at the hotel where the American team was staying. Duval had pulled some strings to be in the same hotel because he wanted to be near the U.S. team.
Love met him in the lobby and brought him into the team room.
“I got him to come in and talk to the team, and after that they wanted him to hang around every night,” Love said of Duval. “They wanted him in there. So that was one of those things you just couldn't have scripted it, but it worked out perfect. Ever since then, he's been even more in the loop.”
For Duval, the offer came out of the blue: three weeks ago, during the Wyndham Championship at a dinner with Furyk in Greensboro, N.C.
“I was shocked,” Duval said. “I really didn't expect that. It's something I would have wanted to do and glad to be doing, but I just felt like it was something that was too far down the road. It was hard to see how [Tiger] wasn't going to be playing, and [Furyk] wanted to bring somebody in that knows Tiger well and everybody's comfortable with and can alleviate him of some of those extra duties he would have to have been shouldering.”
So, Duval is part of a Ryder Cup team again for the first time since 2002, and he couldn’t be happier.
“Oh, it's as high up there as just about anything,” Duval said. “It's certainly one of the – I don't know how you would rank it exactly – top three or four things in the game.”
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli