Michelob Championship
Michelob Championship
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Duval returns to form with opening 64

With his passion for golf renewed by his Ryder Cup experience and his game in a better state than it has been for some time, David Duval once again made Kingsmill Golf Club look easy.

Duval shot a 7-under 64 Thursday - his best round of the season - and shared a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Michelob Championship.

"Out there playing last week at the Ryder Cup and today, I felt like me," Duval said. The intense competition against Europe, he said, restored "some passion that I found I had been missing for quite some time."

Hidemichi Tanaka, at 5-foot-6 and 132 pounds likely the smallest player in the field, birdied three of the last four holes for a 64. He missed a right-to-left, 11-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th.

"I was thinking if I put this in, I will be on top of it and I knew I would come to the interview room and I was wondering what I would speak about in here, that pressure," Tanaka said through a translator.

Tanaka, who has been in 28 PGA events this year as a rookie, had eight birdies and one bogey - the par-4 10th - and said bouncing back right away with a birdie at the par-4 11th kept him going.

Duval tried building on his experience in England, where he posted a 1-1-1 record for the U.S. team in its loss to Europe and felt like he played well.

With his back feeling better, a nagging shoulder injury finally healed and his game coming around, Duval is planning to play in three or four events the rest of the year - and anticipating doing great things.

It doesn't hurt that he earned his first career victory here in 1997, repeated as champion the next year and would love to win the final PGA event played here. Next year, the course will host the less expensive LPGA Tour.

"The thinking I have is I can clean up this year with three wins pretty easy, that I can turn what's been a bad golf year into another multiple win season. That's how I feel about my golf right now," he said.

Duval hasn't won since the 2001 British Open, but he got a good start on the 6,853-yard River Course, making seven birdies and an eagle against two bogeys to lead an uncharacteristic scoring parade on the layout.

Despite thick rough that made it hard to see errant shots even while standing right over them, soft, receptive greens helped with scoring and rewarded players for hitting the fairway, especially Tanaka.

"For my height, it is very difficult," he joked, speaking of the tall, gnarly Bermuda that lines the fairways. "I have to wear higher shoes."

His only bogey came when he twice hit into the Bermuda grass.

Scott Hoch, another Ryder Cup team member, was at 66 along with Loren Roberts, who won the Texas Open last week, Corey Pavin, Bart Bryant and Jose Coceres also had opening 66s.

Peter Jacobsen led a group of 10 at 67.

Roberts, 47, last week became the oldest winner since 48-year-old Tom Watson in 1998, and started Thursday with birdies at Nos. 10 and 11.

"That set up the whole round," he said. "I hit it about 10 feet at the 12th hole, missed the putt and gosh, felt like I had wasted one even though I got off to such a great start. Your confidence gets going and you feel like you're just fairway, green, birdie every hole."

Among those victimized by the rough was two-time defending champion David Toms, who got to the par-3 17th at 4 under, hit his tee shot into the rough and wound up taking a 5. On 18, Toms bladed his second shot from a fairway divot and bogeyed to finish at 70.

"Maybe my mind's not all the way there," said Toms, who was fatigued after playing in the Ryder Cup. He said he also was concerned about Hurricane Lili bearing down on his native Louisiana.

"Other than a wreck at the end, I had a good round going," he said.

Curtis Strange, who lives at Kingsmill and was the captain of the U.S. team at the Ryder Cup, shot a 74.

 

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