Tiger stalks the fairways while rivals get lost in the woods

Donald and McIlroy make poor starts after Woods shines on first day of the US Open

Olympic Club

When Tiger Woods signed for his card only three players were in red numbers. He was one of them. Woods went to his lunch tied second in the clubhouse on one under par after a disciplined 69, three behind a first day bolter from Tucson by the name of Michael Thompson. Who he? asked San Francisco.

Olympic Club played US Open hard and then some. Masters champion Bubba Watson finished eight over. The final member of the fantasy three-ball, Phil Mickelson, closed on six over. Not at all what the massed ranks ordered when the group made its showpiece entrance on the ninth tee at 7.30 in the morning.

Things did not get any easier in the afternoon. The British headliners, Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, the world's top three no less, were a combined 10 over par through the treacherous opening six holes. A birdie at the seventh to take Westwood back to plus three was like a shot of anaesthetic. No pain relief at the short par four for Donald at four over or McIlroy at three over.

Never mind, the American audience got what it most desired; Woods punching away at the top of the order. There is no silhouette in golf quite like that of his. The musculature of the light heavyweight bulging through his grey sweater conveyed his readiness for the fight. Mickelson and Watson opted for funereal black, appropriately enough as it turned out.

Mickelson, the first to draw, hooked his tee shot so far right it was never seen again. Watson sliced his left. Woods, in contrast, arrowed a beauty straight down the pipe. To augment the grandeur of the moment, Woods walked down the fairway alone, 30 metres behind his partners with one hand casually stuffed in his pocket while he ate a sandwich for breakfast.

After a fruitless search that took in most of the flora to the right of the fairway, Mickelson was on his way back to the tee for another go. Woods was 25 feet from the pin before Mickelson had reached the tee box. But what a response from him, taking three more to escape with a bogey. Woods will never hit a better drive than he blasted at the next. Watson and Mickelson stood back from the challenge, electing to hit three-woods. Neither found the fairway.

Bogeys at each of his opening three holes was a fair commentary on the erratic standards being set by Mickelson. The text-book start from Woods earned no reward, and his first error at the 14th, where he went through the green with his approach, was punished with a bogey. Woods is a big boy. He would cope.

Spare a thought for Andy Zhang, the 14-year-old curiosity playing a game way beyond his years. The charm of participation did not survive the first hole. The San Andreas Fault runs beneath the opening two holes at Olympic Club. One day the consequences of that will rip an ugly stripe down the middle of both, much like Zhang yesterday. His opening tee shot missed left, his approach hooked wildly. A triple bogey was the result.

He followed that with a double at the second. Bogeys at the next three holes came as light relief. Remarkably he gathered himself thereafter and a birdie at the last allowed him to break 80. He deserved that. It was not all hell for teenagers. Beau Hossler, a 17-year-old amateur from Orange County, went round in level par. Astonishing.

Woods finally made inroads with a birdie at the par-five 17th to reach the turn level. Successive birdies at the fourth and fifth, the latter a 40-footer breaking from the left, made light of the terrors of this stretch. The thumb screw that is the opening six holes got one back at the next, inducing only his second dropped shot of the round.

"I felt like I had control of my game all day and stuck to my game plan," Woods said. "I was excited to be able to do that. If you are off your game on this course you are going to struggle. You have to really grind. I hit the ball well today and still found it hard to get it close."

Suggested Topics
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence