Scotland's Colin Montgomerie was very much in contention after the first round of the British Open at Royal Troon, his home course. Despite opening the back nine with a double bogey and a bogey, he birdied two of the next four holes and posted a 2-under 69, his second-best start in 15 Open appearances.

"Of all the eight championship courses used [in the Open], this is the one that's closest to me," he said. "The support I have is much more than it would be for me normally. . . . The Open couldn't have come at a better time for me, or a better place."

Montgomerie has had a tough season, made even more difficult by the breakup of his marriage. His inability to win a major championship, coupled with sympathetic reaction for his marital difficulties, has turned him into a sympathetic figure all around the British Isles.

"From taxi drivers in London, to people in the street, to people at airports, anybody I meet in the public eye . . . I'm getting terrific support from everywhere," he said. "The letters I'm receiving, the e-mails through the European Tour office are quite incredible. The theme is always the same. Right behind you. I don't feel as alone as you might feel I am."

Fancy Pants

And the prize for ugliest pants in British Open history goes to . . . England's Ian Poulter, who earned that honor when he sported a pair of red, white and blue Union Jack trousers. The good news is he said he might auction them off for charity.

"I think I've got about 10 outfits for the week," said Poulter, one of the great characters on the European Tour. "I kept it under wraps and I thought it would be quite fun. I've had comments all around the course -- wolf whistles and 'love the pants.' It's actually nice to go out there relaxed and hear funny comments like that. . . . We can't all be the same or it would be a pretty boring place."

Duval Backs Out

David Duval withdrew on Wednesday night, telling Open officials he had a sprained back. Duval, the 1991 Open champion, is mired in a three-year slump and entered the field on an exemption. He had played only one event this year, missing the cut at the U.S. Open three weeks ago after rounds of 83-82. . . . Tom Weiskopf, the 1973 Open champion at Royal Troon, was invited to play this week, and Weiskopf, 61, started his day with a quadruple-bogey eight on the first hole, needing four shots to escape a greenside bunker. He shot 80. . . . Lee Westwood of England began with a double bogey from the rough but had five birdies on a front-nine card that included only one par, at the ninth hole. He ended with a 72. . . . Greg Norman's 16-year-old son Gregory caddied for him, and his wife Laura followed from the gallery with CNN anchor Aaron Brown. Norman shot a 73.

"We can't all be the same or it would be a pretty boring place," says Ian Poulter of England, who wore country's colors with pride in first round.