OAKMONT, Pa. (AP) - Apparently, it takes more than a rainstorm to soften up Oakmont Country Club.
Nick Dougherty, looking to be the first Brit in 37 years to win America's national championship, held the opening-round clubhouse lead of the U.S. Open at 2-under 68 on Thursday, but the real story was how Oakmont was living up to its reputation as a course that only grudgingly gives up birdies.
Despite speculation that a late-afternoon thunderstorm Wednesday created better scoring conditions by slowing Oakmont's traditionally fast greens, there was very little red and a whole lot of black on the leaderboard a few hours after play began.
Dougherty, a protege of three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo, had three birdies on the back nine en route to a 2-under 68. Kevin Sutherland also was 2 under through five holes.
Four players were 1 under, including 2003 champion Jim Furyk, but only Angel Cabrera of Argentina was done for the day.
Tiger Woods found out during his first tournament round at Oakmont how tough it can be, even though he was only three shots off the lead with a 1-over 71, tied with defending champion Geoff Ogilvy.
"It's right there," Woods said. "Three, four, five over par, you're still in the tournament. You've got to hang in there. This golf course is hard. It's hard to make birdies and it's easy to make bogeys and doubles."
Yeah, that rain really helped.
"Nobody's taking it to the golf course," Woods said. "This was as easy as it's going to play, and look what happened."
It was much worse for some other big names. Sergio Garcia shot himself out of contention with a 9-over 79. Colin Montgomerie, Masters champion Zach Johnson and two-time Open titleist Retief Goosen were near the bottom of the scoreboard at 6-over 76. Michael Campbell, the 2005 winner, was at 3-over 73.
Montgomerie tied for second a year ago at Winged Foot following an opening 69 and was third in a three-way playoff with champion Ernie Els and Loren Roberts during the last U.S. Open at Oakmont in 1994.
Els opened at 3-over.
David Toms, who nearly died while developing a heart problem during the 2005 84 Lumber Classic near Pittsburgh, was 3 under but bogeyed five of the last six holes to finish at 2-over 72.
Phil Mickelson, whose final-hole collapse at Winged Foot last year cost him a fourth major and his first U.S. Open title, was 2 over through eight holes. Lefty injured his left wrist chipping out of Oakmont's thick-as-steel rough several weeks ago and was unable to play a full practice round this week.
Mickelson has worn a protective brace all week but, at one point during a practice round, removed it so masseuse Jim Weathers could give the wrist a rigorous rubdown as the two walked down a fairway.
The USGA was concerned that a storm that dumped about a half-inch of rain on Oakmont Wednesday took away some of the course’s legendary speed and created putting conditions more favorable than it wanted.
There needn't have been any worry.
"The U.S. Open is brutal," said Dougherty, who is 28th on the European PGA money list. "It tests every aspect of your game and mentally as well."