Irish pair five off Dougherty's lead


US Open Update:Nick Dougherty got off to a slow at Oakmont but the manner in which he finished his first round of the US open turned out to be much more important as he holds a share of the early lead.

Dougherty carded a late birdie to set the clubhouse target during the first round of the US Open at two under par. That was five better than the Irish pair of Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell who both shot opening 73s

Playing in his third US Open, Dougherty overcame early trouble on the front nine with a solid finish. Consecutive bogeys on the front nine dropped Dougherty to one over and he stayed there until a birdie on the 11th, where he fired a nine iron to 15 feet.

A seven iron to 13 feet on the 13th for another birdie got him under par and a wedge to six feet on 17 resulted in the final birdie of his round.

"I'm delighted with a 68," Dougherty said. "I didn't play all that well from tee to green but my short game was red-hot as it has been lately and I putted solidly."

Playing conditions are tough so far, par for the course at a US Open, but Dougherty believes the early starters caught a break on Wednesday night when nearly half an inch of rain was dumped on the course.

"The course is playing as good as it could be for us," added the former Walker Cup star. "It's playing somewhat easier because you can stop the ball by the hole.

"It's still frightfully tough out there but the morning players definitely got the better half of it, especially if we don't get any more rain this week."

Dougherty held a one-shot lead over Argentina's Angel Cabrera, who was three under after five holes but eventually signed for a 69.

American Bubba Watson and Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal were also in the clubhouse after rounds of 70, level par.

The rain last night may have softened up the course but Watson felt the USGA made up for it.

"I saw a couple of holes were not easy pins but accessible, so after the first six holes I saw even-par was a great score," Watson said.

"The rain didn't slow the greens down, it just made them softer and a little more receptive to shots."

Olazabal played with fellow Spaniards Pablo Martin and Sergio Garcia. Martin managed a 71 while Garcia crashed to a 79.

Garcia started his round with consecutive pars and that was the highlight of his day.

A double bogey at the third started his trouble and Garcia closed his front nine with three bogeys in a row before another double bogey at the ninth. His final bogey of the round came on 15.

Former Open champion Ben Curtis, defending champion Geoff Ogilvy and Tiger Woods each signed for a 71.

In search of his third US Open title, Woods dropped three shots in five holes from the eighth and was two over with four to play.

The world number one drove just short of the green on the 17th and was able to get up and down for a birdie.

Colin Montgomerie, who had the title within his grasp before a closing-hole disaster at Winged Foot a year ago, started his round with a birdie at the 10th, his opening hole.

He stumbled with a double bogey at the par-five 12th and then things fell apart around the turn.

Montgomerie bogeyed 17 and 18 to close his front nine and things got no better coming in as he started the back nine with a bogey at the first.

A birdie on the third and four consecutive pars had Montgomerie four over with two holes to play but he bogeyed the final two holes of his round for a 76.

American David Toms had the outright lead at three under early on but bogeyed the fourth, fifth and sixth and eventually signed for a 72.

Amateur Rhys Davies of Wales shot a 74 in his first round in a US Open.

"It was a great experience," Davies said. "Big galleries and lots of applauding and it was good fun out there."