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Their day in the sun

Leaders capitalize on the rare benign weather to grab low scores while they can.

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 19, 2002


GULLANE, Scotland -- Muirfield, home to the oldest golf club in the world, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, could not have foreseen the likes of Duffy Waldorf. The goofy hats and wild print shirts would not go over too well. Same for the scribbling on the golf ball.

photo
[AP photo]
Co-leader Duffy Waldorf, sporting his Hawaiian look, picks up nearly enough of the tall stuff on No. 17 to make a grass skirt. AP updates
Heck, the so-called "Honourable" folks might change their unenlightened ways and admit female members before they welcome Waldorf into their midst. Not that he really would want any part of the place.

Waldorf is content to be playing in the 131st British Open, and he took advantage of his late qualification, shooting 4-under-par 67 to share the first-round lead Thursday with PGA Championship winner David Toms and Sweden's Carl Pettersson.

"I was just happy to get in," Waldorf said.

For the first time in seven major-championship rounds, Tiger Woods was not leading, just one of many strange happenings on Day 1.

First came a rare appearance by the sun, surprising warmth and benign conditions. Then came a barrage of red numbers, 34 in all. In fact, 54 shot par or better. And late in the day, there was Pettersson leading all by himself. Carl Pettersson?

Of course, there was the story of the tournament, Woods, bidding to add to his Masters and U.S. Open titles this year en route to the Grand Slam.

But Woods didn't even beat the players in his group, England's Justin Rose and Japan's Shigeki Maruyama, who both shot 68. Woods shot 1-under 70, not exactly the end of the world. Still, it seemed to be an opportunity missed, with favorable conditions. He was four back, but tied for 23rd.

"Today was easy," Ian Woosnam said. "If you were going to make a score then today was it."

At 9:01 a.m. local time, Woods' group stepped to the first tee, a 448-yard monster par 4. The timing was no coincidence. The British Broadcasting Company's all-day telecast began at 9, just in time to catch Woods flail his tee shot well into the rough after becoming distracted by photographers.

It happened again as he stood over his second shot in knee-high weeds, with Woods turning around to berate the offending picture-snappers. He somehow muscled his ball back to the fairway, then got up and down from 50 yards for a tense opening-hole par.

"It was like stealing a couple there by making 4," Woods said. "Even if I made 5, it was okay, because the lie I had on the second shot, as I said, a double was probably going to be the score I was going to make. But somehow it came out all right."

Woods made three birdies. The first-hole 8-foot par putt was his longest. In all, Woods needed 33 putts. Only 20 in the field took more.

"I saw him this morning on television, he didn't make a putt all day, it looked like. And he still shot under par," Toms said. "You have to contend with him in every tournament. He'll be there in the end. In conditions like today, that's probably as bad as he'll play."

Toms, 35, who tied for fourth at St. Andrews two years ago, dueled Phil Mickelson at August's PGA Championship and came away with his first major. He later won the Michelob Championship, but has no victories this year with six top-five finishes.

"I took advantage obviously of a perfect day in Scotland," said Toms, who had five birdies and one bogey.

Pettersson, 24, played at North Carolina State and competes on the European PGA Tour, where he won the weather-shortened Portugal Open this year. He had the lead when he birdied the 17th hole, but gave it back after missing the fairway at 18 to make bogey.

"I'm not worried about it," Pettersson said. "You're going to hit bad shots. I'm better off than being 5 or 6 over, so I'm extremely happy."

Among those at 68 were former British Open champions Sandy Lyle and Nick Price and Mickelson.

Waldorf, 39, who hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation, didn't figure to be here. The former UCLA player who has four PGA Tour titles qualified when he tied for fifth two weeks ago at the Western Open.

"I go out there and enjoy playing the game, and coming to a course like this is exciting," Waldorf said.

Waldorf, who writes messages on his golf balls, was fully decked in his Hawaiian shirt and hat. He impressed himself with the fact that the outfit matched.

That was only in keeping with the day -- which hardly was normal.

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