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Pinehurst regains some missing bite
Mark O'Meara among early Day 2 victims

PINEHURST, N.C. -- Tiger Woods whacked a ball into a tree and then skulled one from a bunker today before recovering once again with back-to-back birdies to remain in contention at the U.S. Open.

Woods continued his topsy-turvy play but was only a stroke off the lead after birdies on Nos. 9 and 10 got him back to even par for the day and 2-under for the tournament.Swirling winds that dried out greens sent scores higher on Pinehurst No. 2, after an opening round in which 23 players broke par.

Mark O'Meara was among the casualties, with a front nine of 41 that put him 7-over for the tournament, while John Daly faltered with a pair of bogeys that put him back to even-par for the tournament on the front nine.

The on-course leader was Tim Herron, who birdied the first two holes to get to 3-under. David Duval and the other first round leaders, who shot 3-under Thursday, had yet to tee off.

Woods bogeyed the par-5 fourth hole after trying to go for the green in two with a 3-wood and having his ball plug in a bunker. He skulled the ball over the green and ended up with a six. Woods also bogeyed the par-3 sixth hole, before rebounding with a 30-footer for birdie on nine.

The way Duval strolled so calmly Thursday through the first round of the U.S. Open, it hardly seemed fair to the rest of the field that he didn't have some burden to carry.

The opening round wasn't so notable for the 67 that gave him a share of the lead with Mickelson, Billy Mayfair and Paul Goydos. Rather, it was for how effortless it seemed on a day when fellow competitors were clearly working hard.

"I find it to be less stressful that way," Duval said after never even sniffing a bogey in a nearly mistake-free opening round.

While Mickelson worried about his expectant wife in Scottsdale, Ariz., and seemed always ready to flee the course and be with her, Duval's round Thursday was free of the scrambling and manufactured shots of his playing partner.

It also didn't include a plugged bunker shot Woods couldn't advance, or a wild tee shot into the trees on the 18th hole that cost Daly his own share of the lead.

It was just fairways and greens. Boring, maybe, but for Duval a proven winning formula.

"That's how I try to play," Duval said. "I try to not have to do those types of things."

On a day when Pinehurst's defenses were down slightly after rain softened the greens, Duval was on top of yet another leader board with a round that included 15 pars and three birdies.

But the world's top-ranked golfer had plenty of company, with three others tied for the lead, five more a stroke behind and 26 others lurking within three shots.

Among them were Woods, who birdied his last two holes for a 68, and Daly, who birdied his first three en route to the same score. Payne Stewart, last year's leader for three rounds, was also at 2-under.

Astonishingly, it was the first time either of the world's top two players broke par in the first round of the Open.

That Woods was in contention wasn't surprising after rain allowed the long hitters to pull out even longer clubs without fear of running the ball through the damp fairways.

What was surprising was the round of Daly, who missed the cut or withdrew in half of his 16 tournaments this year, and withdrew two weeks ago after a 6-putt on the final hole gave him an opening round 82 at the Memorial.

Mickelson, who with Duval has worn the label of best player to have never won a major, almost didn't come to Pinehurst, either. But he had a different reason -- his wife, Amy, is due June 30, and she has had a difficult pregnancy.

Mickelson's caddy carried a pager that Amy can send a secret code to if she begins labor. He has a private jet waiting, and has figured out it will take 5 hours and 15 minutes from the time he gets the beep to be by her side.

"I have a once in a lifetime opportunity to be there, whereas the U.S. Open takes place every year," he said.

CHIPSHOTS: Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal withdrew from the U.S. Open today after he hit his hand against a wall and broke a bone.

He pulled out before the second round. The circumstances surrounding his broken hand were not immediately clear.

Olazabal, who shot 75 on Thursday, had been scheduled to play at noon with Tom Lehman and Nick Price.

He issued a statement saying he broke the fifth metacarpal on his right hand.

"I hit a wall (on Thursday); it was my fault," Olazabal said. "The doctor said I would be out three to four weeks. Fortunately, it is a clean fracture."

The withdrawal ended any chance the Spaniard had of becoming the first golfer since Jack Nicklaus in 1972 to win both the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year.