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Thompson Shoots 66 To Lead US Open, Tiger Lurking

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Michael Thompson. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Michael Thompson. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Michael Thompson has taken the clubhouse lead at the U.S. Open, shooting a 4-under 66 for a three-shot lead on a late-charging Tiger Woods.

The 2007 U.S. Amateur runner-up at The Olympic Club sure played as though he kew the course Thursday, piling up seven birdies to go with three bogeys in an aggressive opening round. The 27-year-old from Alabama still couldn’t feel too comfortable with a familiar face lurking at the top of the leaderboard in another major.

Especially this one.

Woods birdied consecutive holes late in his round and played the Lake Course with the kind of confidence that has made him a 14-time major champion. He bogeyed his second-to-last hole and finished with a 1-under 69 to blow away playing partners Phil Mickelson (76) and Bubba Watson (78). David Toms (69) also was tied with Woods.

The morning fog that blanketed the tight, twisting grounds lifted by the time the group of Woods, Mickelson and Watson made the turn. Not that Woods needed faster and firmer conditions under the sun against longtime rival Mickelson and reigning Masters champion Watson.

All the roars belonged to Woods.

Woods was in complete control of his game, finding fairways, sticking greens and avoiding the thick rough and towering trees that line the course built on the side of a hill across the street from the Pacific Ocean. He opened with five straight pars until his approach on the par-4 14th bounced off the tiny green and into the thick rough, forcing him to settle for bogey.

That was one of the few mistakes he made all day.

With the marine layer hovering above the grounds and San Francisco’s steep hills in the backdrop at the start, Woods kept his drives in the narrow fairways and surgically worked his way through the course. He holed a 45-foot birdie putt on the par-4 5th, bringing the gallery roaring to its feet the way only he can.

Woods, not always straight on his first shot, mixed driver and irons off the tee throughout his round on a course that is not particularly long for this championship. The only downside through his stretch of pars: he two putted each time.

Thompson was anything but conservative on this course.

After all, he knows it well.

Thompson lost 2 and 1 to Colt Knost in a grueling 36-hole finale at the U.S. Amateur here five years ago, and hadn’t played a meaningful round on the Lake Course until after he qualified for the U.S. Open last week.

Thompson piled up three bogeys on his front eight — the USGA sent players off holes No. 1 and No. 9 instead of the usual 10th during the first two rounds because of the close proximity to the clubhouse — and looked lost for long stretches. Instead, he found his grove in a powerful close stretch.

Thompson had four birdies in his final eight holes, including a putt on 18th that brought the fans from the grandstand to those sitting up the steep hill below the clubhouse to their feet. He gently tossed the ball into the gallery and waved to the crowd.

If not for a few misses, Woods might be the one on top already.

Woods missed birdie putts on the first and second holes on the — yanking the latter off the lip from about 4 feet — and followed with another par. He stuck his approach within 8 feet on the par-4 4th and sunk another birdie putt to bring some of those roars back to Olympic club for the first time since the championship last hosted the event in 1998.

The round was the first time Woods and Mickelson were paired in the U.S. Open since Torrey Pines in 2008. That’s when the U.S. Golf Association grouped players off the world ranking, and also the last time Woods won a major.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy, top-ranked Luke Donald and Lee Westwood had an afternoon start.

McIlroy shattered U.S. Open records last year at rain-softened Congressional when he reached double figures under par before he even turned in his second-round scorecard. He finished at 268 to break the 72-hole record by four shots, and his 16-under total was four better than Woods’ mark at Pebble Beach in 2000.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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