Roesch, Cox, Stadler near top of leaderboard


SOUTHAMPTON -- One of the great things about the U.S. Open is that David Roesch, Kris Cox and Kevin Stadler can even get in the field.

With résumés that read like an encyclopedia of mini-tours, Roesch and Cox are not the names you would expect to see near the top of any leaderboard, let alone at the U.S. Open. And Stadler is famous for being the son of Craig more than for his game.

But with an open policy that allows anyone with a USGA handicap not exceeding 1.4 to qualify, here they are, tied for third at the Open at 2-under par, two shots ahead of Ernie Els and four shots clear of Tiger Woods.

"It's amazing, truly," said Cox after finishing his round of 68 with a bogey on 18.

Of the three, Roesch's round is the most surprising. A college standout at the University of Wisconsin, Roesch currently is on the Hooters Tour, where he has made only four cuts in eight events, winning $4,049.

"I was more emotional when I qualified for the Open just for the fact that I hadn't been playing that well, and now I get to go play in the U.S. Open," said the 30-year-old Roesch. "I think when I first left St. Louis (where he qualified) and realized I had qualified, I pretty much was breaking down into tears for about an hour or so.

"This is about as high as it gets. The only other thing I've done is won a Hooters event, a couple amateur events in Wisconsin."

Roesch actually considered giving up the game this offseason. He worked during the winter for Taylor Made and was contemplating a career with the company or possibly getting a job as an assistant pro.

"My wife and I talked about it, and I didn't play that well last year, and it was a tough decision for us, should we play one more year, give it another shot or just pursue other careers and we sat down and said let's play another year," said Roesch.

So far that one more year has been so disappointing that Roesch was once again considering giving up the game as recently as two weeks ago when he failed to qualify for a Nationwide Tour event in Chicago.

"This was actually going to be my last year playing if I didn't move up. Granted, this probably changes some things. If I can shoot 2-under the first round of the U.S. Open, I don't think it's a fluke," said Roesch. "Best field in the world and probably one of the toughest courses in the world and I played well. This definitely changes things."

While Cox currently is on the PGA Tour, his road to Shinnecock has gone over just as many bumps as Roesch's. A three-time All-American at Oklahoma State, Cox was one of only six players to make it through all three stages of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament to get his card for the 2004 season. Heading into 2004 Cox had only played in one previous PGA Tour event, missing the cut at the 2001 Texas Open at LaCantera, and in 10 PGA Tour events in 2004, he has made just four cuts, earning $142,728.

"A year ago this time I was playing the Gateway Tour in Scottsdale, Arizona," said Cox, who also listed stops in Canada, South America, the Nationwide Tour, the Hooters Tour and Tight Lies Tour among his many stops over the years. "I was probably trying to hurry to get done to watch the Open."

While Stadler certainly comes with the most name recognition, in two years as a pro, he's played in just four PGA Tour and two Nationwide Tour events. He's been spending most of his time this year competing on mini-tours and trying to Monday qualify for Nationwide events.

"I'm really happy," said Stadler. "I didn't really know what to expect. I've been playing well, but I wouldn't have dreamed I'd come out here and shoot a couple under par."

All three know that a first-round 68 means little over the four-day grind of a U.S. Open. But for one day, they got to see their names near the top of an Open leaderboard.

"There's a lot of golf to be played," said Cox. "But it's always nice to see your name up there."

And it's much nicer when it's at the U.S. Open and not on the Hooters Tour.

Peter Lawrence-Riddell is an editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at peter.lawrence-riddell@espn3.com.