Luke Donald takes lead at suspended U.S. Open

Luke Donald tees off on the second hole during the first round of the U.S. Open at the Merion Golf...

Luke Donald tees off on the second hole during the first round of the U.S. Open at the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., June 13, 2013. (ADAM HUNGER/Reuters)

JON McCARTHY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:00 AM ET

ARDMORE, PA. - If the course at Merion Golf Club was playing easy Thursday, nobody told the players.

The U.S. Open looked very much like a U.S. Open as the course’s rough ate up golf balls and its greens spat them out. Play was called because of darkness with only half of the field completing their round.

Phil Mickelson and Nicolas Colsaerts are they only players who finished their round under par. Mickelson stepped off his private airplane at 3:30 a.m. and proceeded to shoot a three-under 67.

“Well, this was as easy as this golf course is going to play,” Mickelson said after his round. “We had very little wind, there was some but very little. We had soft fairways, soft greens, and we had no mud balls. So we had the best opportunity to score low.”

Mickelson began the day with a three-putt bogey at the 11th hole, but four birdies and no bogeys over the next 17 holes had the Merion crowd roaring his name. A deadly approach at the seventh hole (his 15th of the day) drew loud cheers, as did his birdie at the ninth.

After the round, Mickelson was talking more about par saves at the difficult fifth and sixth holes than the birdies.

“Those two par putts, those are the momentum builders that are important in the rounds at a U.S. Open,” he said. “They actually give you more of a boost than birdies do.”

A three-and-a-half hour weather delay just after 8:30 a.m. meant the first round wouldn’t be finished Thursday. Play was suspended a second time in the late afternoon before being stopped because of darkness at 8:16 p.m.

Luke Donald only played 13 holes but his four under puts him atop the leaderboard.

“Really nice start,” Donald said. “Obviously the course — if you’re ever going to go low I think today was a good day.”

Donald still has the difficult closing stretch to deal with Friday before he begins his second round.

Because of the bad weather, the glamour group of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott didn’t tee off until nearly 5 p.m. and only played 10 holes.

Woods missed the fairway with his opening drive, managed to get his second shot on the green but three putted for bogey at the first hole.

Woods was fighting the golf course all day, making four bogeys and two birdies. One of his birdies was a 50-foot putt on the sixth hole.

“I’ve got a lot of holes to play tomorrow,” Woods said. “And hopefully I can play a little better than this.”

McIlroy got off to a better start than Woods and sits at even par after 10 holes.

Scott was the hottest of the three players, making four birdies against only one bogey to sit at three under.

Canadian Mike Weir saw his name near the top of the leaderboard for most of the day before a stretch of four bogeys knocked him back. Weir shot a 72 and sits at two over and enjoyed seeing his name at the top.

“To see it up there was great hopefully I can get back in there tomorrow,” he said.

Weir’s playing partner and compatriot David Hearn shot an eight-over 78. Ryan Yip if Calgary finished at six over. Rookie pro Mackenzie Hughes from Ancaster, Ont., shot a 75 and sits at five over.

Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., teed off late and is even par through five holes.


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