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Day One in Atlanta

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Jack Nicklaus could help provide perspective on Tigers so-called struggles, with Woods '0-for' in his last two majors and threatening to make it three.
 
Twenty-five years ago, Jack went 10 majors without winning before taking the 1978 British. And in the late 1960s he experienced a similar drought.
 
Pulling off the win at Augusta, said playing partner David Duval, I think that was really his biggest focus and it took a lot out of him.
 
Meanwhile, Duval appears very relaxed. A reporter suggested that Davids a changed person, smiling more, even jovial.
 
Ill try to stop, deadpanned the 29-year-old, and the media room erupted in laughter.
 
Keep in mind that if Duval wins here, and you have to like his chances, hell head to Augusta next spring with a legitimate shot at three in a row.
 
Davids got company at -4 with a group of nine players, including Fred Funk. Funk cracked before the tournament, What am I doing here? Relatively short-hitting, he didnt figure to be a match for the lengthy Atlanta Athletic Club. But he putted well and kept it in play.
 
Niclas Fasth is here to prove that his runner-up finish at the British Open was no fluke, and well see plenty of the Swede at The Ryder Cup.
 
David Toms, also in with 66, may well run into Fasth at The Belfry. Brad Faxon, too, opened his bid to make the U.S. team in strong fashion.
 
Dudley Harts also a shot back but is the clubhouse leader for funniest line of the week. Harts wife is expecting triplets in January, prompting Dudley to say, Were getting a sleeve!
 
As for Phil Mickelson, should he win here, we just may have the makings of a new big three, with Tiger, David and Phil each having staked a piece of major ground in 2001.
 
There was a time not long ago when any notion of a big three had to include Ernie Els. But he appeared burned out after a subpar U.S. Open. Now off a third-place finish at The British Open and another at The International, Ernies reminding us with his 3-under-par first-round score that hes more than big enough to hang with Tiger, David and Phil.
 
A victory here would be a tremendous jumpstart for the South African, whos in jeopardy of no longer even being the best from his country with the emergence of Retief Goosen.
 
Not to be forgotten is leader Grant Waite. The athletic New Zealander came to Atlanta off six straight missed cuts. On the range on Monday I asked him what was wrong.
 
I really dont know, he replied. I feel like Im swinging pretty well.
 
He put it together in Round 1, providing a glimpse of the form he displayed when he pushed Tiger to the limit in Canada a year ago.
 
How do you explain it?
 
Duval put it best when asked about Tigers travails. Its a very tough game to stay on top of for years and years at a time, he explained. I think most everybody goes through spurts and we certainly expect a lot of him. We expect his spurts of greatness to last longer than maybe other peoples. But hes going to have down times, too. Hell fight back.
 
Hell need a few haymakers Friday. With the Atlanta Athletic Club very docile, the leaders dont figure to come off the accelerator.