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
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
filmSony could have made a cult classic
Life and Style
fashionThe essential guide to all the designer Christmas sale dates
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas