European Tour Members Nick Dougherty and Angel Cabrera finished the first day at the 107th US Open Championship as the only players under par with the Englishman leading the field at two under par and holding a one stroke lead.
Another of England’s young guns, Justin Rose, threatened to overtake Dougherty and was lying in a share of the lead with five holes to play before Oakmont hit back and Rose dropped three strokes coming home. His 71 was, nevertheless, bettered by only four players, Spain’s José Maria Olazábal making it an impressive three European Tour Members in the top four by shooting a level par 70 which was matched by American Bubba Watson.
Much has been made of the treacherous greens at Oakmont Country Club, described by many as the toughest in the world, but Dougherty needed only 11 putts on the back nine to take the early lead in the season’s second Major Championship..
He made a slow start to his third US Open with consecutive bogeys on the seventh and eighth dropping him to one over and he stayed there until a birdie on the 11th, where he fired a nine iron to 15 feet. A seven iron to 13 feet on the 13th for another birdie got him under par and a wedge to six feet on the 17th gave him a final birdie of his round of 68.
"I'm delighted with a 68," Dougherty said. "I didn't play all that well from tee to green but my short game was red-hot as it has been lately and I putted solidly."
Playing conditions are tough, par for the course at a US Open, but the course was softened when nearly half an inch of rain fell on the course on Wednesday night.
"The course is playing as good as it could be for us," added the former Walker Cup star. “It's playing somewhat easier because you can stop the ball by the hole.
"It's still frightfully tough out there but the morning players definitely got the better half of it, especially if we don't get any more rain this week."
Dougherty holds a one shot lead over Cabrera, who was three under after five holes but eventually signed for a 69.
“It is always tough to par a US Open course so to shoot one under is a very good round,” said the Argentine. “The greens are softer because of the rain and that is why there are scores under par.”
A further stroke back at level par was Olazábal, playing in a Spanish three ball with Sergio Garcia and the latest European Tour Member, Pablo Martin, winner of the Estoril Open de Portugal as an amateur but now playing only his second event as a professional.
“I had a good day on the greens, chipped well and those two things really helped today,” said Olazábal. “I am happy with the score. Anything around par here is going to be fantastic.
Martin made an impressive start on his Major Championship debut with a one over par 71, to lie alongside, among others, BMW PGA Champion Anders Hansen of Denmark and the man he beat in the play-off at Wentworth Club, Rose, and the Swedish pair of Niclas Fasth and Peter Hanson.
Their score was matched by a host of players including the defending champion Geoff Ogilvy, Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh and World Number One Tiger Woods.
In search of his third US Open title, Woods dropped three shots in five holes from the eighth and was two over with four to play but drove just short of the green on the 17th and was able to get up and down for a birdie to reach the clubhouse on one over par.
Ian Poulter double bogeyed his penultimate hole, the longest par three in Major Championship golf, when he pulled his tee shot on the eighth. That was the only blemish on an impressive opening round of 72, a score matched by another Englishman Lee Westwood.
And the likes of Michael Campbell, Ernie Els, Padriag Harrington and Graeme McDowell are also very much in the hunt at three over par with the course expected to firm up and become increasingly difficult.