Jay Haas, eligible to play on the senior Champions Tour and runner-up at the recent U.S. Senior Open, had more than enough game to keep up with the younger set today at Shinnecock Hills.
Midway through the first round of the U.S. Open, Haas, whose 22-year-old son, Bill, also is in the field, came in with a four-under round of 66 and was tied for the lead with Japan's Shigeki Maruyama, who also had to deal with the swirling crowds watching Tiger Woods, another member of his threesome.
Play was halted late in the afternoon because of heavy rain. Angel Cabrera, who had nine holes to play when competition was cut short, was also at four under, and Fred Funk was three under, although he still had to finish four holes.
Woods came in with a two-over 72, managing only one birdie as he seeks to end a run of seven straight major events without a victory. He said afterward he was pleased with his play, that only a few bad bounces after well struck shots cost him a chance to get closer to the lead.
"I played away from a lot of flags because of the pin positions," Woods said afterward. "I was trying to leave myself 15 to 20 foot putts. It's tough out there."
It was particularly difficult for David Duval, who had walked away from the game last November and not played a competitive round since. Although he birdied his opening hole and was one-under after three, Duval had unplayable lies in the rough on his next two holes for successive double bogeys. By the time the warm, wind-free day had ended, he had carded an 83, but had no complaints.
"It was just exciting," Duval said of his comeback. "I feel like I know what I'm doing again. There's some kinks to work out and some rust to get rid of, but the most important thing is I enjoyed being out there. I'm not tournament ready. That goes without saying. Add the Open to the mix, and that adds up to even more shots. But in general I'm pleased."
Haas may have been the happiest man on the premises. He missed the cut when the Open was played here in 1986, but tied for fourth in 1995 here, with a 69 on his card the final day. Today, he had the good fortune of being paired with Raymond Floyd, who won the '86 Open and is a member at Shinnecock Hills.
"I watched Raymond on certain club selections," Haas said. "I told him before the round, 'Why don't you just hit first on every hole and show us where to go?' "
Haas figured it out for himself quite nicely. He had five birdies and a bogey today, finishing his round off with a 45-foot birdie putt at the 17th hole and making a routine par, missing a 12-footer for birdie on his final hole of the day.
"People ask me how I feel at 50," Haas said. "I don't know how you're supposed to feel. I've never even thought about being 50, that I should be doing this, I should be doing that. People ask me if I want to be the oldest to qualify for the Ryder Cup. No, I just want to qualify for the Ryder Cup."
Haas was planning to spend part of the afternoon walking around the course and watching his son Bill play his first Open round. Bill, a Wake Forest product like his father, will turn professional next week at the Booz Allen Hamilton Classic in the Washington suburbs.
Asked what Bill might have been thinking when he saw his father was leading the tournament, Jay Haas said, "Hopefully he'll look at it and say, 'Wow, I can do that if dad can do that.' It's unbelievable."
Jim Furyk, the defending Open champion who also hasn't played in six months because of a wrist injury, had far more success than Duval. Less than three months after undergoing surgery to repair cartilage damage in his right wrist, Furyk opened with a 72.