SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (AP) - David Duval started the U.S. Open with a flourish, then got a stinging reminder of why he walked away from the game. Playing
his first tournament in seventh months, the last player not named Tiger Woods to be ranked No. 1 in the world birdied the first hole at Shinnecock
Hills Golf Club to put himself in an improbable place - the leaderboard.
It all fell apart at No. 4, where Duval put up the first of consecutive double-bogeys. He made the turn with a 5-over-par 40 and lost another stroke
with a bogey at 10. Journeyman David Roesch, who plays on the minor-league Hooters Tour, was the early leader with birdies on four of his first six
holes. But a couple of bogeys knocked him back.
Brian Gay seized the lead at 3 under through eight holes, taking advantage of benign conditions on the links-style course situated between Great
Peconic Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The dreaded wind was barely rippling the flags, providing a chance to go relatively low. But the slick greens and
waist-high fescue were still taking their toll. Davis Love III had triple-bogeys at both 14 and 1.
Tiger Woods, trying to break an 0-for-7 slump in the majors, was 1 over midway through his round after a bogey at No. 9, where he drove into the
rough, missed the green with his second shot and failed to get up and down. Gay led by a stroke over a group that included Roesch, Dudley Hart, Kris
Cox, Jay Haas, Chris DiMarco, Trevor Immelman, Kenny Perry and Kevin Stadler, son of former Masters champion Craig Stadler.
Duval's decision to return at golf's toughest test left many people shaking their heads. He had not played competitively since withdrawing from a
November tournament in Japan. To Duval, an often enigmatic figure behind his wraparound sunglasses, it seemed right. He made his decision Saturday
night and flew to Long Island.
"I just wanted to go play,"
Duval said Wednesday. "For no other reason than I just felt like I was going to go have some fun and enjoy it
again. Up to that point, I hadn't wanted to play."
Duval opened up his soul for all to see, revealing the inner workings of a complex figure who once stood on top of the golfing world, then let it all
"You know, the life out on this tour is long. It's hard. It's lonely. And I've been doing this for a long, long time,"
he said. "In some
sense, to be honest with you, I haven't missed it."
Duval came into the Open with no expectations, just a renewed desire to knock around that little white ball. The ranking that was once No. 1 has
plunged to 434. He hasn't won in three years, and just making the cut in the 156-player field would be a major accomplishment.
Others are playing for a lot more. Start with Woods, who has failed to win a major since a dominating 7-of-11 run in golf's biggest events. He is
under more scrutiny than ever because of his engagement to a Swedish nanny, his divorce from high-profile coach Butch Harmon and shots that don't
always go where he's aiming.
Woods' slump - if you can call it that - has given Ernie Els and Vijay Singh a chance to move up to No. 1 in the world, a position Woods claimed from
Duval on Aug. 16, 1999, and has held ever since.
"I'm playing as good as I've ever played,"
Singh said. "I can't do any more than just go out there and try to win the golf tournament."
Duval isn't the only player making a comeback this week. Jim Furyk, the defending Open champion, had surgery on his wrist three months ago and counted
himself out. Lo and behold, he played two full rounds last week and decided Friday to give it a shot. Amazingly, Furyk birdied his first two holes and
was a respectable 1 over through nine. But he had no illusions about repeating as champion.
"My expectations are high,"
Furyk said. "They're not that high."
He's already part of history, one of six straight first-time major winners. The streak began with Rich Beem in the 2002 PGA Championship and stayed
alive with Phil Mickelson in the Masters two months ago. Certainly, it's not out of the question that another neophyte will hoist the trophy Sunday as
the sun sets on Long Island.
That list starts with Sergio Garcia, the consensus choice to inherit Mickelson's former title of Best Player Never to Win a Major. But also keep an
eye on players such as Chad Campbell and Padraig Harrington, who seem poised for a major breakthrough.
"Chad Campbell could easily win this week,"
said Lee Janzen, a two-time Open winner. "He swings fearlessly and he plays fearlessly. Those
are two good things to have at this tournament."
Duval was approaching things with a totally different mind-set.
"I can't tell you when I'm going to play again,"
he said. "I just wanted to play this week. That's it."