Michael Thompson leads the way at US Open

Michael Thompson upstaged the golfing elite as he defied brutal conditions to claim a three-shot lead after the first round of the US Open in San Francisco.

Tiger Woods made his best start to the tournament in a decade, but many other big names fell victim to the Olympic Club’s Lake Course as only six players broke par.

Woods opened with a solid 69, but Thompson stole th e show as he recovered from dropping three shots in his opening six holes to return a highly-impressive 66.

The 27-year-old qualifier responded to bogeys at five and six with five birdies over the next eight holes, and a closing three gave him the early clubhouse lead which was never threatened as conditions became firmer and faster.

“Give Tiger the spotlight,” Thompson said. “I don’t care. I’m going to go out and play my game. If I go out and putt the way I did today, I’ll be in contention.

“Obviously my name’s in the spotlight, but a lot of people don’t know who I am. I’m totally okay with that because I’ve always been a player that just kind of hangs around. I don’t give up very easily and I’m very proud of that.

“This is one of my favourite golf courses, so I’ve got good feelings coming in here.

“I just got the putter hot today. I got kind of a wake-up call on the first hole, I missed my par putt because I didn’t realise the greens were that fast. From then on I was just trying to flow.”

Woods fed off the confidence from his Memorial win earlier this month, offsetting a bogey at 14 with a birdie at the 17th and getting within two of Thompson with further birdies at four and five.

Beat up

But he gave one back at the sixth and parred in to stay at one under to the envy of playing partners Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson.

Mickelson’s opening tee shot resulted in a lost ball and set the tone for a six-over 76, his worst start in the event for 22 years, while Watson admitted he was “beat up” by the Lake Course after handing in a 78.

Despite the tougher afternoon conditions, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell led the British challenge as both matched the earlier 69s of Woods and David Toms.

Both Rose and McDowell birdied their last two holes to get under the card alongside Nick Watney, who posted only the third albatross in US Open history when his 190-yard five-iron approach to the 17th landed softly and rolled straight into the cup.

Ian Poulter rolled in an eagle putt at the seventh and parred the eighth – his last – to return an excellent 70, but it was a difficult afternoon for the marquee afternoon trio of Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood.

The world’s top three players being a collective 19 over par, with No 1 ranked Donald failing to muster a single birdie and needing a par at the last just to break 80.

McIlroy’s dominance of Congressional last year was a distant memory as he opened the defence of his title with a wayward 77, dropping three shots in the last four holes after nailing his only birdie putt of the day at 13.

Westwood started with a double-bogey and was four over after six, but he regrouped to play the remaining 12 holes in one under and looks in good shape to be in contention for the weekend.