Dougherty grabs US Open lead

Oakmont, June 15:

Nick Dougherty’s two-under-par 68 was good enough for the first-round lead at the 107th US Open golf championship on Thursday, but certainly not enough to discourage Tiger Woods.

Dougherty was one of only two players to break par on Thursday, despite the fact that Oakmont’s notoriously difficult greens had been softened slightly by rain.

The 25-year-old Englishman kept his nerve after back-to-back bogeys at the seventh and eighth, then picked up birdies at 11, 13 and 17 coming in to set an early target that none of his rivals could quite reach.

Argentina’s Angel Cabrera had sole possession of second place on 69, and two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain and American Bubba Watson were at even par 70. Woods, bidding to add a third US Open title to his resume, clawed his way to a one-over 71, tied with defending champion Geoff Ogilvy of Australia and still well within striking distance.

The group on 71 also included Fiji’s Vijay Singh, 2003 US Open champion Jim Furyk, England’s Justin Rose and young Spaniard Pablo Martin, who turned pro last week after becoming the first amateur to win a European Tour event at the Portuguese Open in April. World No 2 Phil Mickelson, playing with a sore left wrist that he said was more “aggravating” than excruciating, posted a four-over 74.

Other players who flirted with the lead included Justin Rose and fellow Englishmam Ian Poulter, both going as low as two-under. Poulter settled for a two-over 72.

South African Ernie Els, winner of the last US Open held at Oakmont, in 1994, posted a three-over 73.

Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie posted a six-over 76. South Korean KJ Choi, winner of the Memorial tournament two weeks ago, was a further shot back on 77, also taking double-bogey at the 12th hole. Sergio Garcia’s day was even worse, the Spaniard struggling to a nine-over 79.