Canada’s Mike Weir held a two shot lead from Sweden’s Peter Hanson after round one of The US Open Championship at Bethpage Black.
As the course dried out following the torrential downpours that brought a premature halt to proceedings on the opening day, the late-starting half of the draw found birdies much easier to come by as they finally got their first round under way.
And Weir, who won the Masters Tournament in 2003, fired eight birdies in a stunning round of 64 – one outside the US Open record.
His only blemish came on the par four sixth, his 15th hole, where he ran up a double bogey six.
Hanson, who memorably qualified for the tournament with a hole in one in a play-off at Walton Heath, picked up four shots in his opening ten holes after starting his round at the tenth.
Dropped shots at the fifth and seventh saw the 31 year old slip down the field, but he fought back superbly – with accurate approach play leading to birdies at the eighth and ninth.
Remarkably, Hanson admitted he may have been forced to withdraw from the event had rain not kept him off the course on day one.
“I was very lucky yesterday that the rain came in because something tweaked in my neck on Wednesday and I couldn’t have played,” he said.
“It was really bad for 24 hours, but they have been great in the physio truck. I have been given some stretches and treatments and it feels fine now.
“It was so nice to get those last two birdies at the end because five and seven are such tough holes and I didn’t manage to get up and down there, so to stiff my last two approaches to eight and nine was a great feeling.
I haven’t seen many leaderboards out there but it feels pretty good to be up near the top.”
Todd Hamilton, David Duval and Ricky Barnes were one behind Hanson on three under, with fellow American Rocco Mediate a further shot back following a round of 68.
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, who completed his opening round much earlier in the day, was among a group of seven players on one under, together with world number two Phil Mickelson and Australia’s Adam Scott.
Ian Poulter and Johan Edfors were also among the early starters and put themselves in contention by each posting 70.
They were later joined on level par by a host of European Tour members, including Spain’s Sergio Garcia, Denmark’s Soren Hansen and English duo Ross Fisher and Oliver Wilson.
Defending champion Tiger Woods dropped four shots in his final four holes for a total of 74, the same score as playing partner and Masters Tournament champion Angel Cabrera.
Three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington, who was grouped with Woods and Cabrera, also struggled and ended his first round on six over.
But Northern Ireland youngster Rory McIlroy finished with three successive birdies on his US Open debut, giving him a score of 72.
The 20 year old said: “The three birdies in a row certainly helped – I really needed it because the round was looking like it could be 76 or 77.”
The late starters enjoyed only a short break following their rounds as they had to go back out to start their second 18 holes in a bid to get the championship back on schedule.
However, McIlroy was keen to return to the course, adding: “We have definitely got the good side of the draw and you have to take advantage of that.
“The front nine is supposed to be the one where you can make a score so I want to try and go out there and take advantage and get to even par or one under for the tournament.”