OAKMONT, United States: Oakmont showed a softer side but that was little consolation as thunderstorms brought a chaotic first round of the US Open Golf Championship to a premature close on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
Little-known Andrew Landry was clinging to a one-shot lead with one hole to go when play was suspended for the day, with only nine of the 156-strong field completing their rounds.
Although Thursday’s rain — in the wake of overnight showers — took the edge off the formidable par-70 layout northeast of Pittsburgh, not everyone could take advantage.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth and world number three Rory McIlroy will be hoping to turn things around when they return to finish their first rounds on Friday.
World No.1 Jason Day and five-time major-winner Phil Mickelson didn’t make it to the first tee as three separate delays halted play for more than four and a half hours.
If Landry was an unlikely name atop the leaderboard at three-under par through 17 holes, 19-year-old American amateur Scottie Scheffler was an equally surprising clubhouse leader after a one-under 69.
“It was tough,” Landry said of the delays, although he appreciated the more receptive greens.
“They’re a good speed and they’re so perfect out there,” said Landry, ranked 624th in the world. “You can make so many putts.”
The softer course was in stark contrast to the firm conditions of the practice rounds.
“Completely different golf course,” said Spieth. “I mean night and day.”
That difference didn’t help Spieth much as he launched his bid to become the first player since Curtis Strange in 1989 to successfully defend a US Open title.
He had two bogeys and a birdie to stand one-over through 11 — and a burst of temper at the par-four 17th when a lovely wedge shot spun away into a greenside bunker.
“Are you kidding me!” the world No.2 fumed. “How is that in the bunker?”
Things were even more of a slog for 2011 US Open winner McIlroy. He was in trouble early with back-to-back bogeys at the second and third.
He pulled a shot back with a clever birdie at the par-five fourth, where he reached the green in two but opted to chip toward the hole and gave himself a three-footer.
That was the high point of a day that included three more bogeys before play was halted with the Northern Ireland star four-over through 13, level with playing partner and Masters champion Danny Willett.
Landry, playing in the second group to tee off at the 10th, made steady progress, moving to five-under through 13 holes. He strung together three birdies in a row at the second, third and fourth with a pair of five-footers and a seven-footer.
Up by three, he came back to the pack with bogeys at the seventh and eighth — and will have all night to contemplate a 10-foot birdie putt at his final hole.
“I was trying to get it in,” said Landry, who had a wait at the hole for players in front of him. “We were trying really hard … you’ve got to stay patient with it.”
Landry, a one-time winner on the web.com developmental tour who has missed six cuts in 11 US PGA Tour starts this season, was one stroke in front of two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and New Zealand’s Danny Lee.
Watson and Lee reached two-under in contrasting style. Watson had three bogeys and five birdies through his first 10 holes — including a 49-foot birdie putt at the 10th — before parring his next four.
Lee, meanwhile, had two birdies on the front nine and was without a bogey through 13.
Long day looms
Former world number one Lee Westwood, one-under through 13 holes and sharing fourth with Scheffler, Kevin Streelman and Harris English, acknowledged the stop-start action was “frustrating”.
“But there’s nothing you can do about the weather,” added Westwood, who teed off on 10 and helped his cause by holing out for an eagle from the fairway at the par-four 14th.
Friday was shaping up to be an arduous affair of up to 36 holes for some.
“I have no idea if we’ll be able to get all 36 in,” said qualifier Tyler Raber, who had been due to tee off in the last group off 10. “It’ll be a long day.”