Dougherty leads battered pros at Oakmont

Nick Dougherty
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Nick Dougherty shot an opening-round 68.

OAKMONT, Pa. (AP) — Tiger Woods was above par, and felt fortunate to be there. Phil Mickelson had a 74, and knew it probably couldn't have been much better with his achy wrist. Only two scores were in the red under optimal scoring conditions at the U.S. Open, and three very long and likely dry days await.

This is Oakmont Country Club, as good as it gets. This is the U.S. Open, where the field often expects the worst and most often gets it.

What everyone was wondering after the opening round Thursday on one of world's toughest courses was how much more grueling it will get when Oakmont's greens fully dry out, the pin placements aren't so generous and the pressure that's always there in the most difficult of the four majors ratchets up even more.

If only leader Nick Dougherty (68) and Angel Cabrera (69) could break par at Oakmont with the greens softer than usual, the temperatures moderate and a cooling breeze blowing through, what will the scores be by Saturday? By Sunday?

"We are in for a long week,'' Vijay Singh said.

For Sergio Garcia (79), Shaun Micheel (78), two-time champion Retief Goosen (76), Masters winner Zach Johnson (76) and frequent contender Colin Montgomerie (76), it's already been a long week. Despite scores so high they would already be out of it in most tournaments, Woods offered some encouragement.

"You know if you shoot 3, 4, 5 over par, you're still in the tournament and you've got to hang in there,'' said Woods, whose 1-over 71 left him three behind Dougherty.

One trend was evident Thursday: getting on the course early was much preferable to later. Only four golfers were below or even par, and all four had early tee times - when Oakmont's wickedly fast greens were drying out from a Wednesday afternoon thunderstorm.

"I think the course is, I hate saying it, easy,'' Dougherty said after needing only 11 putts over the final nine holes. "Goodness I shouldn't have said that. No, absolutely not. The course is barbaric.''

Cabrera (69) owned the only other score in the 60s, with the long-driving Bubba Watson and Jose Maria Olazabal at even-par 70. Woods, Ben Curtis, returning champion Geoff Ogilvy, Jim Furyk and 51-year-old Fred Funk were among those at 1-over 71.

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