US Open
US Open
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Round 1 Reports
Browne & Mediate set first day pace
Corey Pavin flies to sees son graduate
Phil Mickelson rates Pinehurst tougher than 1999
Ian Poulter unhappy at cut of cups
Tiger Woods happy with opening round of 70
Rocco Mediate enjoys return to the lime light

Browne & Mediate set first day pace

American qualifiers Olin Browne and Rocco Mediate stole the limelight from golf's biggest names by sharing a one-shot lead in the U.S. Open first round on Thursday.

While U.S. Masters champion Tiger Woods battled to an even-par 70 and twice winner Ernie Els ground out a 71, Florida residents Browne and Mediate fired matching 67s in bright sunshine at Pinehurst's No. 2 Course.

The rest of the so-called "Big Five" were hot on their heels, though.

Retief Goosen launched his title defence with a three-birdie 68 for a three-way tie for third, 2004 Masters winner Phil Mickelson returned a 69 after holing a 20-foot birdie putt at the last and world number two Vijay Singh opened with a 70.

"I think it's amazing how Retief plays so solid in U.S. Opens," left-hander Mickelson told reporters. "He's a great ball-striker and a great putter. I think U.S. Open set-ups are where it really stands out."

Although conditions were not quite as tough as had been expected by the 156-strong field, PGA Tour veterans Browne and Mediate made the most of a layout they applauded as fair.

The 46-year-old Browne, who shot a 59 in qualifying nine days ago to book his place at Pinehurst, reeled off five birdies and two bogeys.

Mediate, 42, sank a 50-foot eagle putt on 10, dropped on 14 but also picked up shots on four and 16.

"I really hit the ball well today and had a lot of fun out there," a jubilant Browne told reporters. "This course is truly magnificent."

Mediate, who finished fourth in the 2001 U.S. Open at Southern Hills, said: "I felt good right away this morning. I love the golf course and I love the USGA (United States Golf Association) set-ups."

Nine-times major winner Woods, despite looking a little out-of-sorts and struggling for accuracy off the tee, offset two bogeys with two birdies to finish three strokes off the pace.

On a day when most of the players struggled to hit their approach shots close on Pinehurst's notorious domed greens, he was delighted with his effort.

"Any time you shoot even par at a U.S. Open, you ought to feel pretty good -- and especially at this one," said Woods, who won the event at Pebble Beach in 2000 and again at Bethpage Black in 2002.

"Overall, this golf course is playing very difficult. Today was a very satisfactory day, although I need to position my drives a little bit better."

Woods, who beat fellow American Chris DiMarco in a playoff for the Masters in April, made a bright start with a birdie at the par-five 10th, his opening hole.

He parred the next four holes to stay in touch with the lead before slipping back with bogeys at the par-three 15th, where he failed to reach the green off the tee, and the par-four 16th.

After completing the front nine in one-over 36, the 29-year-old picked up his second shot of the day at the par-five fourth. He parred the closing holes to stay in touch with the lead.

Woods, who hit only six out of 14 fairways, is bidding to match Ben Hogan as the only player to win the first two majors of the year on two occasions.

South African Goosen, who won last year's tournament at Shinnecock Hills by two strokes from Mickelson, got to three under following birdies at the fourth, 10th and 13th.

However, he dropped his only shot of the day at the 14th, where he missed a par putt from six feet.

"Hitting the fairway is definitely the most important thing here and I missed only three today," said the unflappable Goosen, who won his first U.S. Open at Southern Hills in 2001.

Els, champion at Oakmont in 1994 and at Congressional in 1997, was frustrated after his opening 71.

"I'm really hitting the ball solidly, but even if you're hitting your irons well, you've got to play away from the flags," he said.

"It's really unbelievable. It's the only course we play where you have to aim away from the holes."

Brandt Jobe, yet to win on the PGA Tour, led the field at four under but dropped shots on the 16th and 17th to finish one off the pace.