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Thursday, 16 June 2011
Y E Yang  (Getty Images)
Y E Yang (Getty Images)

Korea’s Y E Yang was the man to catch as the opening round of the US Open Championship unfolded at Congressional Country Club.

The 2009 US PGA Championship winner carded a three under par 68 to sit one ahead of Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen and Americans Davis Love III - Ryder Cup Captain now, of course - and Ryan Palmer.

Leading the 35-strong European contingent instead one under were defending champion Graeme McDowell, who came back from an opening bogey with two quick birdies and then 12 pars in a row, and Swedes Johan Edfors and Henrik Stenson.

Ireland's Padraig Harrington, the man who won the two previous Majors at which Tiger Woods was missing, would have been alongside them but for lipping out from ten feet and making a bogey six at the 636 yard ninth, his closing hole.

McDowell said: "I felt really good this morning. I set myself some challenges - to think well, go through my process and keep patient.

"I just tried to take each hole as it comes and all in all I'm very happy. They've taken this course to the edge and you can see some of the greens are stressed."

The Northern Irishman was halted in his progress for a while when a spectator needed medical attention on the 11th, but parring his way through the entire inward half - much the harder of the two - added to his confident mood.

Harrington stated: "I would have taken it before I went out. If I had birdied the last rather than bogeyed it I would have felt a lot happier, but it was a fair reflection.

"I've got a new set of irons and I definitely had a nice bit of control. They're next year's model, but I get them six months in advance."

World Number One Luke Donald made a brilliant start but was unable to convert it into a brilliant round as he opened with a 74.

And Lee Westwood, the tournament favourite, fared one shot worse as he set off in search of what he also hoped would be his first Major title.

After making birdies at two of the most feared holes Donald had no fewer than four bogeys in five holes, then a double bogey six on the 18th to turn in a four over par 39.

Donald was playing with Westwood and Martin Kaymer, the pair ranked two and three in the world, and none of them was able to make their presence felt. Kaymer also handed in a 74.

Lucky that heavy rain eased off just as he went to start his round, Donald hit a superb four iron to four feet on the dangerous short tenth over water.

He then made a 14 footer at the 494 yard uphill par four to be out on his own in front at two under.

But he pulled irons left on the 13th and 14th before running up a third bogey on the long 16th when he went from the right rough to the left rough and then over the green and down a steep slope.

Rated the best bunker player in the sport, he could not get up and down from sand at the 17th and on the 523 yard par four last - the second longest par four in US Open Championship history - he was in trouble off the tee again, then struck a 96 yard pitch way too hard into a back bunker.

He had a plugged lie and a difficult stance to make matters worse and although he did wonderfully well to get it to seven feet he missed the putt. From first he had slumped all the way to 64th - and that with half the field yet to tee off.

Westwood failed to get up and down from sand on the 11th, made an 18 footer at the 16th, but tripped up at the 18th when he drove right into the trees and bogeyed.

On the front nine Donald had birdies at the first and eighth from 20 and seven feet, but bogeyed the short seventh after going over the back.

Westwood, meanwhile, made an 18 footer at the second, but bogeyed the next two and took sixes on the par five sixth and ninth, first through hitting into the lake and then after finding sand with his pitch as the wind picked up.

That may have had something to do with Phil Mickelson's first shot rolling into the water on the tenth. A double bogey five went on his card.

Donald said: "We struggled a bit and couldn't get any momentum. Hopefully that will be different tomorrow."

Westwood added: "I didn't swing it very well last week either and you just don't get away with it at a US Open.

"The course gave us a chance to score and I'm surprised no-one has taken advantage.

"If we had played like the top three in the world it would have been more enjoyable for the people to watch, but none of us played well and we all just about got what we deserved."

Italian Francesco Molinari, who pipped Westwood to a World Golf Championships title in China last November, birdied three of his first four holes to move alongside Yang, while Rory McIlroy birdied the 12th, his third, to join the group on one under and Mickelson also made three there to get back to one over.

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