Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell made late moves to claim a share of second place after the first round of the US Open Championship in San Francisco.
On an enthralling opening day, the Olympic Club provided a stern challenge to the world’s best players, with lightning quick greens posing a host of problems.
American Michael Thompson holds a three-shot lead after a brilliant round of 66 early in the day, while Tiger Woods looked imperious from tee to green in his one under par 69.
Late in the day, Race to Dubai leader Rose and 2010 US Open Champion McDowell both birdied their last two holes to join the 14-time Major winner and his compatriots David Toms and Nick Watney on one under par.
“It was a great start getting off to a sub-70 round in a Major,” said Rose, already a winner in the States this year following his WGC-Cadillac Championship victory in Florida.
“Obviously Michael Thompson had a great four under par round, but take him out of it and we’re right where the US Open wants to be – even par golf.
“You had to hit great shots to keep it in play and you had to hit great shots to get it close to the hole, but the greens were pure enough that you could save yourself if you were out of position.
“It’s just a good start, I’m not getting too wrapped up with it. I think in this tournament, more than any other, you just have to stay in the moment – you can’t get ahead of yourself for one second out there. So as of this second now, I’m not even thinking about round one anymore – it’s just about my first tee shot tomorrow.
“It's going to be a long hard week ahead of all of us, and that’s really my mindset. This tournament more than any other really rewards that kind of thinking.”
McDowell, who claimed his first Major title in this event at Pebble Beach two years ago, had bogeyed the seventh and 12th holes after a birdie at the fourth, before striking late – although the Northern Irishman felt it could have been even more spectacular.
“I had eight feet on 15 and 12 feet on 16, and missed both,” said The Ryder Cup star.
“I managed to cosy it to 15 feet on the last and probably made one of my longest putts of the day. I hit it in a lot of fairways, hit it on a lot of greens and controlled things pretty well.
“I've always enjoyed the US Open, even before I won Pebble I always enjoyed the US Open set-ups. And if you would have asked me before I won Pebble where did I fancy my chances, which Majors did I like the best, then I probably would have always said to you the US Open and The Open. Those are the two that I would always choose.”
Rose and McDowell were not the only European Tour Members going well – Sweden’s Robert Karlsson completed a level par 70, as did Ian Poulter, who eagled the par four seventh after driving the green.
Thompson, a 27 year old from Alabama with only one top-ten finish all year on the US PGA Tour, was two over par after six holes, but then birdied the seventh and ninth and in a blistering back nine 32 picked up more shots on the 11th, 12th, 14th and 18th, where he pitched to seven feet.
Woods, his confidence restored by his victory in the Memorial Tournament on the US PGA Tour two weeks ago, missed the green on the 419 yard 14th hole – his sixth – and after bogeying there came back with a two-putt birdie at the 522 yard 17th.
The opening six-hole stretch is the one that really sorts the men from the boys, but Woods sank curling birdie putts of nine and 30 feet at the fourth and fifth holes respectively.
He described the second of those as “a bit of a fluke – that putt was off the green [if it hadn’t gone in].”
It might have been better as he missed from barely four feet at the second hole, but then came another bogey after he found sand on the sixth.
The shot of the day came from Watney, who recorded the third albatross in the history of the US Open Championship.
Two months after Louis Oosthuizen’s albatross in the Masters Tournament, the American repeated the feat with a 190-yard five iron at the long 17th hole.