American Ryan Palmer birdied the tricky par-three 10th hole to grab an early one-shot lead in the U.S. Open first round at Congressional Country Club on Thursday.
Palmer, beaten by PGA Tour rookie Keegan Bradley in a playoff for last month's Byron Nelson Championship, hit his tee shot over the pond guarding the front of the green to four feet and coolly knocked in the putt to get to three under overall.
That left him a stroke in front of fellow Americans Chez Reavie and Jeff Overton, and Swede Johan Edfors in the year's second major.
Reavie, who teed off in the first group of the day at the par-four first, had completed 16 holes, Ryder Cup player Overton 10 and U.S. Open qualifier Edfors 12.
Holder Graeme McDowell of Britain, who clinched last year's title by one shot at Pebble Beach, was among a cluster of eight players knotted at one under.
The Northern Irishman shrugged off a bogey at the first, where he was bunkered off the tee and with his approach, to claw his way into contention with birdies at the second and sixth.
Also at one under were 2009 PGA Championship winner Yang Yong-eun of South Korea, 2009 British Open winner Stewart Cink of the U.S. and emerging Australian talent Jason Day.
Yang had completed 13 holes, Cink five and the 23-year-old Day 12.
British world number one Luke Donald, playing in a high-profile pairing with second-ranked Lee Westwood and third-ranked Martin Kaymer, was six strokes off the early pace after squandering a sizzling start.
Donald, who claimed his third PGA Tour victory at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February, birdied the difficult 10th and 11th after teeing off on the brutal back nine first to share the early lead.
However he then slid backwards with four bogeys in five holes from the 13th before double-bogeying 18 to reach the turn in four-over-par 39.
A welcome birdie at the par-four first put Donald at three over for the tournament in his bid for a first major title.
American world number five Phil Mickelson and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa were among the late starters.
Early morning drizzle gave way to warm sunshine and light breeze at Congressional where showers and thunderstorms are forecast for later in the day.