MIYAZAKI, Japan (AP)- David Duval went overseas for his final tournament of the year and wound up in truly foreign territory Thursday – atop the leaderboard by one shot over Tiger Woods at the Dunlop Phoenix.

Duval kept the ball in play at Phoenix Country Club and made eight birdies in his round of 6-under 64, putting him in the lead for the first time in three years.

The former No. 1 player has not won since the Dunlop Phoenix four years ago.

He has been mired in a mystifying slump brought on by injuries that altered his swing, then confidence after posting so many poor scores.

He has made only one cut this year, at the Texas Open.

Duval still feels a few aches in his back and shoulder, but hopes he is turning the corner.

“I played well,” Duval said. “I’ve been playing well for about a month now but just haven’t been scoring well. I’m well aware of how I’ve played over the past few years, but I’ve worked hard and it’s good to start a tournament not behind the 8-ball.”

Woods, whose swing changes started to take hold last year when he won the Dunlop Phoenix, made one bogey in his round of 65.

He said it was good to see Duval playing better.

They were in Japan four years ago in the World Cup, where they lost in a three-team playoff.

“It’s been tough to watch,” Woods said. “David is a friend of mine, we played in two World Cups together and he has really struggled. But it looks like he’s showing signs of getting his game back together.”

The last time Duval was atop the leaderboard was going into the final round in Las Vegas three years ago, where he wound up in a tie for sixth. The 64 was his best score since a second-round 62 in the FBR Open at Avenel in 2003.

He attributes his slump to injuries that have affected his swing, and still bother him.

“My golf swing is good,” Duval said. “My condition is incredibly mediocre, my back hurts, my shoulder hurts but I don’t say anything about it because I think it will always be there.

“They forced me to swing the golf club differently than I wanted to. Today was one of those days when I got the most out of the round I could.”

Starting his round on No. 10, Duval put together four straight birdies starting on the par-3 17th.

While he may not be ready to challenge Woods for the No. 1 ranking anytime soon, Duval says he’s content to be playing up to his potential.

“I just want to perform in these events how I know I’m capable of playing,” said Duval, whose 13th and last PGA Tour victory came at the 2001 British Open. “Today I played well and drove the ball like I expect to be able to drive the ball.”

Woods birdied his first hole, the par-4 10th, and then added five more birdies.

“I’m very pleased,” said Woods. “I hit the ball well today and it’s exciting to strike the ball that well and consistently. I hit the ball better today than I did for the past two weeks.”

Jim Furyk shot a 67 and was three strokes back along with Japan’s Tomohiro Kondo and Shinichi Yokota.

Woods is coming off two runner-up finishes at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai last week and the Tour Championship.

At last year’s tournament in Miyazaki, Woods won his first stroke-play tournament in more than a year after closing with a 3-under 67 on the final day. It was only his second title of the year.

He considers his victory the pivotal point in feeling comfortable with his swing, and he went on to win two majors, two World Golf Championships and two other events this year.

AP-ES-11-17-05 1503EST


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