Poulter made his US Open debut at Shinnecock in 2004 missing the cut, but he shed some light on what's needed to survive US Open conditions. He could play around a temperamental driver and endure a streaky putter, cleaning up whatever mistakes he made along the way. Woods shot a 3-over par through nine holes in the opening round, while Spieth finished 8-over par.
If you're the kind of golfing masochist who didn't enjoy seeing Brooks Koepka make bushels of birdies at Erin Hills a year ago, if you enjoy it when the best players in the world look mortal and demoralized, it's likely you'll enjoy the rest of this championship.
Only five players were under par as of Thursday afternoon, as strong winds created hard conditions at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, New York, which is near the south shore of Long Island.
It was a struggle from the start of the week at Shinnecock Hills, as Woods made triple bogey on his opening hole of the tournament.
Of course, there remains rich and tantalising opportunity, as there does for Tommy Fleetwood on the same mark after a brilliant 66, one behind two other Americans in Scott Piercy and Charley Hoffman on level par. He is tied for 58th.
Fourteen-time major victor Woods (72) and McIlroy (70) both closed on 10 over while Spieth (71) finished with successive bogeys to miss out by one shot on nine over. "I was kind of hanging in there until, unfortunately, first and second hole kind of derailed it".
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Woods finished the day with four birdies, four bogeys and a double-bogey. Ian Poulter got within a stroke of Johnson at 3 under with two holes to play. "I don't know that you can be too happy and too excited about 10-over par".
"There's not many birdies", he said.
Russell Henley was tied for the lead until he missed the third fairway and went into thick grass that change fortunes in a NY minute.
But after finding the greenside bunker with his approach to the par-four eighth, Poulter hit his ball 30 yards over the green with his third.
And with the PGA Championship typically held on tamer venues, where birdies aren't viewed as an endangered species and rough is measured in inches rather than feet, his chances for a fourth title remain very much alive. He salvaged a triple bogey and shot 78. There are eight golfers within five shots of first, and on this course, the leaderboard can change quickly.
Johnson was concerned with staying out of trouble, and he has done that well on a punishing course.
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Things looked promising when Woods found the fairway at the first, but his second shot rolled through the green and he would need three shots to reach the elevated green, finally two-putting for a seven.
"The problem I have with saying yes, this would be the hardest one for Tiger is that you have to be the ultimate headstrong, grinder, course management", said 2003 champ Jim Furyk.
"One over par in the U.S. Open; I'm not sure how else to look at it but like that", he said. "Hit a really nice putt, and it went right in there".
He played the next 11 holes in level par before making his move with three birdies in four holes.
"Absolutely", he said. "Have you seen the way I've been swinging?"
And that was when you could get the ball to stay on the surface. "I went the aggressive route and you can't really do that. Or it might not".
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