Martin Kaymer seized command during the first round of the US Open with three birdies on his final five holes en-route to a 5-under 65 and a three-shot lead at Pinehurst No. 2.
Kaymer, who won The Players Championship last month, is seeking his second major championship. He won the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in 2010 and no player has ever won a Players and US Open championship in the same year.
His 65 was the lowest score of any US Open round played at Pinehurst No. 2, which also hosted the tournament in 1999 and 2005.
Though many of the players bemoaned the difficulty of the course leading up to the tournament, Thursday's first round was prime for good scoring.
The scoring average of the field was 73.23, the lowest opening round scoring average since 2003 at Olympia Fields when it was 72.68. 15 players managed to break par, the most for an opening round in the US Open since 2003, when 24 players did it at Olympia Fields.
"It was more playable than I thought," Kaymer was quoted by ESPN.
"I think that made a big difference mentally, that you feel like there are actually some birdies out there, not only bogeys."
Kaymer is well aware that there is plenty of trouble on the course and cautioned that there is still a way to go before a champion is crowned on Sunday.
"But it's a good round of golf. I wasn't expecting it. I'm not freaking out about it. It's the first round of a very, very important tournament. I put myself so far in a good position, but we have three rounds to go. The golf course can change a lot.
"If other people want to make more out of it, it's fine. But for me, it's a great start into one of the most important weeks of the year."
Graeme McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion, shot a 68 in the first round and is among Kaymer's chasers who are three shots back.
Plenty of big names are hovering at the top of the leaderboard. Among the players at 1-under are Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley and Hideki Matsuyama.
Phil Mickelson is at even par after a round of 70 and Rory McIlroy fired a 1-over round of 71. Defending champion Justin Rose struggled on his opening nine, but seemed to get his game in gear on his back nine and finished with a 2-over 72.
Adam Scott, the No. 1 ranked player in the world, finished with a 3-over 73 and is eight shots back heading into the second round.
Masters champion Bubba Watson struggled to a 6-over round of 76 and will have plenty of work to do to get inside the cut line during Friday's second round.
"What's going through my mind? It's a tough golf course," Watson said.
"The golf course is better than me right now. Come out tomorrow and try to play better, that's it. If I don't, I'll get ready for next week."
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