Tiger chasing surprise leader Thompson at U.S. Open

Story highlights

  • Michael Thompson was the leader after the first round
  • Tiger Woods was three shots behind, tied for second
  • Andy Zhang, 14, is the youngest golfer to play in the U.S. Open

Tiger Woods kept his recent strong play going Thursday, shooting a 1-under 69 to keep him within shouting distance of the leader at the U.S. Open.

Michael Thompson held the lead after round one, shooting a 4-under 66 for a three-shot advantage from second-placed Woods, 2010 winner Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose, David Toms and Nick Watney.

Thompson, 27, is playing in only his second U.S. Open, having finished tied for 29th in 2008.

"I've got nothing to lose. This is just a bonus in my career," said Thompson, who was runner-up at the Olympic Club at the 2007 U.S. Amateur Championship.

"I'm not guaranteed into all the majors as a professional, and to be able to have the opportunity to play is just a wonderful experience."

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Woods was on his game all day at Olympic's tree-lined Lake Course in San Francisco.

He consistently hit fairways and kept the ball out of the rough. He birdied in back-to-back holes late in the round, shots that brought huge applause and subdued fist pumps from Woods.

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"I was very pleased," Woods told reporters. "I felt like I had control of my game all day and just stuck to my game plan and executed my game plan."

His play came in stark contrast to the others in his marquee pairing. Woods was grouped with Phil Mickelson and recent Masters champion Bubba Watson, but both golfers struggled mightily and will have to rally on Friday to make the cut.

Mickelson, who has been a U.S. Open runner-up five times, shot a 6-over 76.

He fell on hard times from the beginning, slicing his opening tee shot into the trees and losing the ball. He had to rally just to get a bogey. He then went on to bogey the next two holes and showcased uneven play the whole round.

"I can't really think about the lead or anything," Mickelson told reporters. "I've just got to make the cut right now, and to do that, I got to shoot something under par."

Watson had even more difficulty shooting a round of 8-over 78.

The always-clever Watson commented on his difficulties on his Twitter page.

"I figured out what I did wrong today on the golf course, missed the putt for 77. #goflishard," Watson tweeted hours after he had finished Thursday.

Another big story of the first round was 14-year-old Andy Zhang who became the youngest golfer to ever compete in the U.S. Open.

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Zhang started out a little shaky starting with a triple bogey, then a double bogey and then three more bogeys in a row. But the teen settled himself and with a beautiful play at the end of the round became the youngest player to hit a birdie in the U.S. Open.

He finished with a 9-over 79, which left him level with world No. 1 Luke Donald and U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell in a tie for 140th in the 156-man field.

Defending U.S. Open champ Rory McIlroy stumbled in the first round, as the world No. 2 carded 7-over 77.

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It was a tough day for the world's top three players, with Englishman Lee Westwood faring the best as he shot 73 to be tied for 40th.

Casey Martin, playing his first major tournament in 14 years since his controversial debut at the same venue, was tied for 52nd.

The 40-year-old American, who needs to use a golf cart due to a birth defect which causes pain in his right leg, carded six bogeys and two birdies in his 74.

"I tried to realize there's really not that much pressure on me, but it didn't work," said Martin, now a university golf coach who came through regional qualifying last week.

"I want to enjoy it. It's hard to enjoy it when you're popping with your nerves and stuff. I want to do so well so bad that I don't want to get in my way."