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US Open golf: Thompson leads, but Tiger lurks after 1st round

Michael Thompson shot the best score in the field on Thursday. But Tiger Woods, fresh off his win at the Memorial, is in a good position going into Friday.

By Doug FergusonAssociated Press / June 15, 2012

Michael Thompson hits a drive on the second hole during the first round of the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament Thursday, June 14, at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.

Ben Margot/AP

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San Francisco

The U.S. Open featured two marquee groups, but only one marquee player.

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Take Tiger Woods out of the equation and the top five players in the world were no match for unforgiving Olympic Club.

Then again, not many were.

The lead belonged to Michael Thompson, a 27-year-old in his first U.S. Open as a pro. He made seven birdies — that's seven more than Luke Donald — for a 4-under 66 that gave him a three-shot lead over Woods and the four other lucky souls to manage to break par Thursday.

The buzz came from Woods.

Even as Thompson strung together four birdies on the back nine, Woods put on a clinic on the other side of the course on how to handle the toughest test in golf.

Woods was never out of position. None of his tee shots found the deep, nasty rough lining the fairways. There was hardly any stress in the most demanding of majors. With consecutive birdies late in his round, including a 35-foot putt that banged into the back of the cup, Woods opened with a 1-under 69 to raise hopes that he can finally end that four-year drought in the majors.

"I felt like I had control of my game all day," Woods said. "Just stuck to my game plan — and executed my game plan."

For so many others, the game plan was simply to survive. Thirteen players shot in the 80s, and the average score was 74.9

The best tribute to the toughness of Olympic was the top five players in the world. They combined to go 26-over par, which includes Woods at 69. Perhaps it was Ryo Ishikawa who best summed up the day after a hard-earned 71: "I'm very tired right now."

Woods stood out on a day when the game's best struggled mightily.

He was in the marquee group in the morning with four-time major champion Phil Mickelson and Masters champion Bubba Watson. Mickelson never found his opening tee that he hooked into the trees and shot 76. Watson could only say that Olympic "beat me up" on his way to a 78.

In the afternoon, the USGA put together Nos. 1-2-3 based on their world ranking, and it was a rank performance.

Donald failed to make a birdie in his round of 79. Rory McIlroy, the defending champion, bogeyed three of his last four holes for a 77 and then declined interview requests, instead speaking to a pool reporter. Lee Westwood was 4 over through six holes, and made an impressive rally for a 73.

The shocking numbers: The top three in the world ranking combined for three birdies.

"It shows how tough it is," Donald said. "There aren't that many opportunities out there."

Only six players managed to break par in the opening round, which would have come as a surprise to none of the players. After opening with a birdie, Joe Ogilvie turned to his caddie and said, "Seventy-one more pars and we're hoisting the trophy." He shot 73.

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