Now, Triplett finds himself in the same position he was when he last played the Nissan Open - at the top of the leaderboard.
The defending champion fired a 5-under-par 66 to tie Sergio Garcia, Tom Scherrer and Brent Schwarzrock for the first-round lead at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
The quartet heads a truly international leaderboard, which includes six Americans, two Australians, two Japanese players and a Spaniard within one shot of the lead.
Japanese standouts Joe Ozaki and Shigeki Maruyama each opened in 4-under-par 67. They are tied with Australians Greg Chalmers and Bradley Hughes, and Americans Edward Fryatt, Bob Tway and Rocco Mediate.
Tiger Woods is five shots off the pace after 18 holes. Woods, making his seventh start at the Nissan, carded three birdies to offset three bogeys for an even-par 71.
'I played hard, it just didn't work out,' said Woods, who hasn't won in his previous seven Tour starts. 'I was putting all right, but the problem is when you have the 40- and 45-footers and the 30-footers all day, you're not going to make you share of those. I need to hit the ball a little closer.'
Playing alongside Tiger for the first time in the first round was Scherrer.
'He's the best ever,' said Scherrer. 'I wanted to make a good impression.'
And so he did.
Scherrer posted a bogey-free 66 to earn a share of the Day-One lead. His round included a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe on his first hole, No. 10, and a 30-footer on the 12th.
'Playing with Tiger, I was pretty excited and very happy I played well in front of him,' said Scherrer, who was in contention through two rounds of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am before shooting 73-80 on the weekend to tie for 55th.
After the round, Scherrer took his scorecard, which was singed by Woods, and said he was going to have it framed.
If Scherrer's name at the top is a surprise, Schwarzrock's name is shock. The 29-year-old didn't find out he was in the field until Tuesday. He then flew cross-country from his home in Sea Island, Ga., and didn't have time to get in a practice round.
'I played the course blind,' he said. 'I didn't think there was a chance I'd get in here.'
Schwarzrock made the most of his opportunity. Despite a pair of bogeys on both the back-nine par-5s, he chipped in twice for birdie en route to his 66.
This is Schwarzrock's third season on the PGA Tour. He first qualified in 1999 after finishing 11th in the '98 Qualifying Tournament, but managed to only complete one round the entire season due to a reoccurring back injury.
Still hampered by an ailing back, Schwarzrock played in 19 events on the Tour in 2000 thanks to a medical extension. He made six cuts and finished 195th on the season-ending money list.
A tie for 31st at this past year's Qualifying Tournament gave a healthier Schwarzrock a reprieve in 2001. Thus far, he's competed in three events, making two cuts.
It's been exactly one year since Triplett ended his 11-year winless drought on the PGA Tour. Thursday, he made a bid to retain his title by carding an eagle on the par-5 first, his 10th of the day, to go along with five birdies and two bogeys.
Garcia is still in search of his maiden stateside victory. He's also trying to officially re-enter the winner's circle for the first time anywhere since his rookie season of 1998, when he won twice on the European Tour.
Two weeks ago, the 21-year-old media sensation was penalized two shots for an improper drop at the Greg Norman Holden International. He eventually lost to 19-year-old Australian Aaron Baddeley in a playoff, but not before blaming his loss on the rules official who assessed the penalty.
'That's all done. Forgotten,' Garcia said. 'I remember how well I played. I don't think many players can play as well as I did that week. Losing a playoff with a two-stroke penalty, not making a putt on Sunday.It really showed me a lot.'
News, Notes and Numbers
*Kirk Triplett is trying to become the first person since Corey Pavin in 1994-95 to successfully defend his Nissan Open title.
*Jose Maria Olazabal began his first round with an eagle at the par-5 first, but played his next four holes in 4-over. He finished the day with a 1-under-par 70.
*A black ribbon was attached to the flag on No. 3 in tribute to Dale Earnhardt, who was killed in a car wreck at last week's Daytona 500. Earnhardt drove car No. 3.
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