Lee Westwood may have felt as if he had been involved in an Olympic boxing match but refused to be knocked out as the US Open stretched the world’s top three players to the limit.
Westwood fared the best of the afternoon feature group as he battled to a three over par 73 over the Olympic Club’s Lakes Course while defending champion Rory McIlroy was hit by a 77 and lies joint 109th and World Number One Luke Donald is on the ropes after a 79 left him reeling in tied 140th place.
The USGA wanted the 112th US Open to be “golf’s toughest test” and they delivered.
Westwood double bogeyed the first – statistically the hardest hole on the course - after missing the green right and seeing his chip roll back down the slope and then dropped further shots at the third and sixth. A birdie on the seventh provided a brief respite but another shot was lost the ninth. But he rallied and didn’t drop a shot on the back nine, birdieing the 17th to claw one stroke back.
“It felt like a fight out there today,” said the World Number Three. “The golf course is very tough, and I got off to the worst possible start with three dropped shots in my first three holes. So from that point on it was always going to be a battle.
“You look on the scoreboards, and there weren’t many red numbers on there. When I was on four over, my target was to get back to two over, because that would’ve been a decent score – especially after my start. So to finish on three over wasn’t a complete disaster.”
McIlroy missed more greens in today’s opening round than the entire week twelve months ago at Congressional, where he romped to an eight shot victory, and certainly found the fast, running course a much tougher challenge as his card featured eight bogeys and just the one birdie.
“I got off to a decent start and then it's just so tough here if you put yourself out of position at all,” he said. “It's so tough to make your pars from there. You have to be so precise. Anything just a little off and it really punishes you.”
Donald struggled even more and could not find a single birdie as he dropped nine strokes.
“At the US Open, the margins are that much smaller and if you're just a little bit off, which I was today, it's tough,” he said. “And then you have to really rely on chipping it close and making some putts and I didn't do that. My putter went cold today, otherwise I could have probably ground out some more respectable score.”
Battle will resume for their round two at 7.44am local time tomorrow.