On a day when the temperature was in the 90s and only seven players managed a score in the 60s, Van Pelt opened with 4-under-par 67 to grab a one-shot lead over Vijay Singh, Brendon De Jonge and Jimmy Walker, who bogeyed his final hole.
Tiger Woods was never under par in the afternoon and opened with 72.
So this is what the U.S. Open was supposed to look like.
The venerable Blue Course took a beating last year in the so-called toughest test in golf when unfavorable weather conditions in the weeks leading up to the U.S. Open and overnight rain during the championship made Congressional a pushover. Rory McIlroy had a record score of 16-under 268 for an eight-shot victory.
The AT&T National was more of a grind.
“It’s certainly, I think, a little retribution for what happened last year,” Woods said. “Don’t be mad at me. I didn’t play.”
Woods missed the U.S. Open last year while recovering from injuries to his left leg. He won at Congressional in 2009 the last time the AT&T National was played here, and he won at 13-under 267. That was nothing like the course he faced Thursday.
Billy Hurley III, who went to the Naval Academy and spent five years in the service, joined Pat Perez and Jason Day at 69.
The sunshine and heat figure to make it tougher over the next few days, especially on the weekend.
Nick Watney, the defending champion (at Aronimink) who was in the large group at 70, said the more fair comparison was with the U.S. Open held two weeks ago at The Olympic Club. Michael Thompson led after the opening day at 4-under 66, and Webb Simpson won at 1-over 281.
Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan and Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III were at 70, along with Robert Garrigus, who tied for third last year at the U.S. Open by breaking par in all four rounds.
He feigned a yawn coming out of the clubhouse Thursday. “Just another round under par here,” he said.
His 70 in the opening round of the AT&T National felt more like 67.
“I was flying irons around the hole and they were gone,” he said, referring to the firmness of the greens.