David Duval remained the mystery man of the 104th U.S. Open two days before the event begins Thursday.

Duval, who hasn't played a competitive tournament since November, announced over the weekend he intended to make his comeback this week at Shinnecock Hills. But USGA spokesman Craig Smith said Tuesday evening Duval was not expected at the golf course until Wednesday, when he will become the last player in the 156-man field to register. Considering the degree of difficulty of an extremely tight, testing course and the vagaries of the prevailing 25-mph winds, it seemed a strange way to play his way into any sort of pre-tournament form.

Duval's game took a serious dive the last two years when he was plagued by back problems. He made the cut in four of 20 events and earned just $84,708, finishing 212th on the money list two years after he won his first major championship, the 2001 British Open. He also got married in January and moved to Denver with his wife, Susie Persichitte, and her two children from a previous marriage.

Duval has been working on his game at home but has granted few interviews this season. He did tell the Associated Press on Monday: "I just want to go play. I have no expectations. I just want to enjoy being out there. It's very hard to miss the U.S. Open. Am I playing great? No. I just want to be there. . . . I'm nervous. I'm scared in a sense. I've been away for quite some time. But I'm really excited."

Furyk Returns

Defending Open champion Jim Furyk remained resolute in his desire to tee off Thursday despite not playing competitive golf in six months and undergoing wrist surgery in March to repair ligament damage. Though he said there was still a chance he might not play, he also insisted he wasn't at all concerned about re-injuring himself on Shinnecock's four-inch primary rough or the even deeper tall fescue beyond that.

"The rough here this week isn't six, seven inches long and extremely dense," he said Tuesday. "This golf course doesn't need a whole lot of protection; it's a difficult course in its own right. If I felt I couldn't play out of the rough, I wouldn't be here . . . because it wouldn't be worth it.

"I pushed the envelope trying to come to the U.S. Open and I had a lot of good memories from last year and I wanted to show up as the defending champion. But I want to do that knowing that it's not going to cause me problems for the future. I don't want my recovery to slow down for another month. I want to make sure it's all in good health for me, and hopefully that will be the case."

Furyk said he will play nine holes Wednesday and have a "moderate" practice session before making his final decision on playing.

"If I go out [Wednesday] and feel any pain or I wake up Thursday morning and try to hit balls and feel pain, from talking to my doctor it wouldn't be in my best interests to be out there playing," he said. "At that point, I'll withdraw and at least know I came and gave it a good shot."

Woods's Empty Belly

Tiger Woods is definitely not a fan of the belly putters a number of players have started to use on the PGA Tour.

"I don't think anything should be anchored to the body," he said. "I think the art of putting is to figure out how to coordinate your arms, wrists and shoulders and hands to swing the blade. I think that's part of the game of golf.

"I'm sure one day I may need one, but I think the challenge of it is to just swing the club, just like we do with all the other 13 clubs."

David Duval has been plagued by back problems the past two years. He made the cut in just four of his 20 events. "I just want to go play," Duval said. "I have no expectations."