Buick Open Filled With Fatherhood Story Lines

Friday, June 29th 2007, 7:44 am
By: News On 6

GRAND BLANC, Mich. (AP) _ Tiger Woods skipped the Buick Open because he became a father last week.

After earning spots among the first-round leaders with 7-under 65s, Brett Quigley and Woody Austin beamed when talking about their kids.

Quigley, whose daughter was born just before the Masters, has enjoyed the life-changing event of being a first-time father.

``I had no idea it was going to be like it was for the first two months,'' he said Thursday after finishing one shot behind leader Rocco Mediate. ``If you sleep 6 hours in a row, you feel like you slept two weeks straight.

``When she wakes up smiling, it melts you.''

Austin is playing for a sixth straight week. If it wasn't for his 9- and 7-year old sons, who are traveling with him, he would've skipped the upcoming tournament near Washington, D.C.

``I was going to withdraw next week, but my kids already had two White House trips scheduled,'' he said.

Mediate, meanwhile, can play with his three children and his clubs without discomfort for a change. A healthy back helped him shoot his lowest score on the PGA Tour in four years, opening the Buick Open with an 8-under 64.

``This has been one of the best years of my life coming out of this injury,'' he said. ``I'm ecstatic.''

Quigley, Austin and Brian Bateman shot 65s and Jim Furyk was among a group of four another stroke back after the first round in an up-for-grabs tournament.

Woods and Vijay Singh aren't in the field for the first time since 2001 after combining to win four of the previous five.

Mediate likes his chances because his right hip joint no longer makes his back miserable. ``I can move again,'' he said.

Mediate credited Los Angeles physical therapist Cindi Hilfman for turning his life and career around since they connected in February.

``Since I had back surgery in '94, it's been on and off again,'' he said. ``The last three years I was dead.''

Simply breathing was painful for him and walking was impossible at times.

The five-time PGA Tour winner had only one top-10 finish last year, ending the season a career-low 206th on the money list. Mediate was ranked 176th and 114th the previous two years after finishing between 22nd and 37th from 1999-2003.

``My game didn't go away because my ability went away,'' he said. ``It's because my body went bye-bye.''

He missed just two greens in regulation, despite hitting just nine of 14 fairways, and made 27 putts in a bogey-free day. It was his best effort since opening 2003 at the Mercedes Championship with a final-round 63.

The absence of last year's champion made a noticeable difference in the size of the galleries. Woods isn't defending his title because he is spending time with his wife and newborn daughter.

Singh ended his five-year string of appearances at the Buick Open because of an elbow injury.

Furyk, the only player besides Woods or Singh to win at Warwick Hills since 2002, put himself in contention with his 34th consecutive under-par round at the tournament.

``You basically know that you have to keep firing some pretty good numbers here,'' Furyk said. ``It would be nice to get an 8 or 9 under. Historically, someone has gotten to 20 under.''