(Reuters) - Former world number one David Duval is not ready to write off Tiger Woods, but he knows from personal experience how difficult it is to play hurt and without confidence.
Duval, in his new role as a Golf Channel analyst, will be among those closely following the progress of the 14-times major champion who will make his season debut at next week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open after an injury-hit 2014.
Duval, the 2001 British Open champion whose career was curtailed by a bad back, believes it is hard to overestimate the toll that a loss of confidence can take on a golfer.
“Through everything I went through I realized the most important thing to protect as a golfer is your confidence and your arrogance, for want of a better word,” Duval told Reuters.
“You need to have 100 percent belief in what you’re doing and think you’re bulletproof out there.”
Woods, 39, has not won a major since 2008 and will have to buck history if he is to match or better Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major titles.
He was limited to nine tournaments last year due to back issues that required surgery in late March and kept him from competing in the year’s first two majors.
“Last year was a lost year basically that was detrimental to (Woods‘s) health, detrimental to his swing, and detrimental to confidence,” Duval said.
”You can’t play hurt. I attribute a lot of the problems I had to injury and having gone through some of this stuff myself, I think he is looking at being healthy more than anything and after that looking to regain some form he’s had in the past.
“It takes a little time to put all those pieces back together. It is a high hurdle to get over (but) it wouldn‘t’ surprise me to see him firing on all cylinders come March, April.”
Duval, 43, has not completely given up his own playing aspirations, though he finds tournament invitations hard to come by now that he is no longer fully exempt on the PGA Tour.
The American will play in next month’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the British Open at St Andrews in July, but otherwise has nothing confirmed.
He will, however, stay busy working for Golf Channel, initially on its pre- and post-game shows.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Gene Cherry and Frank Pingue