SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND - For much of Thursday's first round of the Open Championship, Royal Birkdale felt like a time warp as the lead passed among guys more likely to be lifting a tube of Ben-Gay on Sunday night than the Claret Jug. Tom Watson, Greg Norman and Rocco Mediate all spent time atop the leaderboard. Only the exhumation of Old Tom Morris could have capped the 'Ghosts of Opens Past' party.
But this Open delivered an altogether more surprising return from the dead: David Duval.
The former world number one disappeared like Jimmy Hoffa soon after winning the 2001 Open up the coast at Royal Lytham. He's made only one cut on the PGA Tour this year (a T-60 in Memphis) and hasn't logged a top 10 finish anywhere since 2005, and even that was on the Japanese Tour. So seeing Duval shoot a very solid opening round of 3-over-par 73 caught many by surprise.
Except Duval himself.
"I probably stand here with a lot more confidence than you maybe think I should if you simply look at results," he said. "But I'm the one holding the golf club, I'm the one hitting shots, so I know how I'm truly swinging the golf club and how I'm playing. And I feel good about it. I've been expecting some glimpses of greatness for a while."
Duval notched three birdies, six bogeys and none of the scorecard-scorching numbers that have been his trademark in recent years. "I could sit here and beg for a couple shots back [but] it is a good score," he said. "When I got here had they said '73 and you can go back to sleep,' I'd say 'I'll see you tomorrow."
As second round play got underway Friday, Duval's plus-3 total was in a tie for 16th place, four off the lead. He will begin his second round at 10:04AM EST.