Resilient Tiger back in the hunt

American lies three shots behind leader Thompson

The electricity was back as Tiger Woods moved into once familiar territory on Thursday, clawing his way into contention with a one-under-par 69 in tough scoring conditions to lie three shots off the US Open lead.

American Michael Thompson in action at the Olympic Club on Thursday. AFP

As the year’s second major lived up to its reputation as the toughest championship of all, the former world number one mixed three birdies with two bogeys to finish the first round three behind fellow American Michael Thompson at the Olympic Club.

"I played well today," three-time champion Woods told reporters after breaking 70 in the opening round of a US Open for the first time since 2002 with a superb display of course management on a firm and fast-running layout. "I felt like I had control of my game all day. I'm really excited how I was able to execute my game plan all day today. The golf course was really quick. We knew the greens were going to be a little quicker, but I didn't think they would be this firm this early in the week. So, we had to make a couple of adjustments with that."

Woods was one of just six players who broke par, ending the round tied for second with fellow Americans Nick Watney and David Toms, Britain's Justin Rose and 2010 champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland.

Watney capped a memorable display in glorious afternoon sunshine with a rare albatross two at the par-five 17th, holing out with a five-iron from the fairway for only the third double-eagle ever recorded at a US Open. The little known Thompson, who tied for 29th in his only previous US Open appearance in 2008, upstaged the game's biggest names by carding a seven-birdie 66 on the challenging, hilly Lake Course.

Though Thompson bogeyed three of the first six holes - a stretch widely regarded as the most difficult start in the majors - he then surged up the leaderboard with six birdies in bright sunshine to take control of the tournament.

American world number six Matt Kuchar, 2003 US Open champion Jim Furyk, Swede Robert Karlsson and Britain's Ian Poulter were among a group of eight locked on 70. McIlroy, who romped to victory by eight shots in last year's US Open at Congressional, paid the price for hitting only seven of 14 fairways. “It's just so tough here if you put yourself out of position at all," the 23-year-old said.

Left-hander Watson never recovered from four bogeys in his first eight holes but was hugely impressed by Woods. "That was the old Tiger," he gushed. "That was beautiful to watch. That's what we all want to watch and that was awesome to see him strike the ball look. He made a couple (of) bogeys but under par on this golf course is pretty good."

Woods, who won the most recent of his 14 major titles at the 2008 US Open, oozed confidence throughout his round as he outshone playing partners Mickelson and Watson in front of huge galleries. He was rock solid as he parred his first five holes after teeing off at the ninth, bogeyed the 14th after his tee shot ended up in thick rough but recovered with a two-putt birdie at the par-five 17th.

Woods then knocked in birdie putts from 10 and 30 feet at the fourth and fifth to move within a stroke of the lead before making his only other stumble, a bogey at the par-four sixth.

Leading scores (first round, US unless specified): 66: Michael Thompson; 69: Tiger Woods, David Toms, Nick Watney, Justin Rose (Bri), Graeme McDowell (Bri); 70: Beau Hossler, Jason Bohn, Park Jae-Bum (South Korea), Robert Karlsson (Swe), Alistair Presnell (Aus), Matt Kuchar, Ian Poulter (Bri), Jim Furyk; 71: Martin Flores, Branden Grace (South Africa), Jonathan Byrd, Francesco Molinari (Italy), Michael Allen, John Peterson, Casey Wittenberg, Ryo Ishikawa (Japan).

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