"I felt very pleased with every facet of my game today and I stayed very patient out there," said Woods, aiming for his 15th major championship and first since the 2008 Open. "I was very pleased how I executed my game plan."
The game plans for Woods and the other 155 contestants had to be adjusted on the fly. Olympic played firmer and faster than it did during the practice rounds, meaning that a well-struck short iron from the fairway didn't always hold the green. Woods mentioned a 60-degree wedge that he clipped perfectly, then watched as his ball rolled 50 feet and off the green.
The firmer conditions were of no benefit the other members of Woods' threesome. Phil Mickelson lost his first tee shot of the day in a tree and carded a 76, two shots better than Masters champion Bubba Watson.
"The golf course is just demanding," Woods said. "It does wear on you because there's no letup. There's not one single hole where it's a breather hole."
Only three players in the morning half of the draw - Thompson, Woods, and David Toms (69) - broke par. The afternoon portion seemed to struggle more as the course conditions became even more difficult, and no one finished at better than 69.
Nick Watney, who holed out a 5-iron from 208 yards for a double eagle on the par-5 17th, came in with the first 69 of the afternoon and was followed by Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell, the 2010 Open champ at Pebble Beach.
Eight players finished the day at even par, with 2003 Open champion Jim Furyk at the top of the list along with Matt Kuchar and Ian Poulter.
The featured afternoon grouping of the world's top three players - Luke Donald (79), defending champion Rory Mcllroy (77) and Lee Westwood (73) - was a combined 19 strokes over par.
"It shows how tough it is," said Donald, the world No. 1. "There aren't many opportunities out there, so it's a challenge."
The day featured Watney's double eagle, the third known albatross in Open history. It included a 79 by 14-year-old Andy Zhang, the youngest contestant in U.S. Open history, and an even-par round by 17-year-old Californian Beau Hossler.
The lead, however, belonged to Thompson, 27, who has a special relationship with Olympic because he made the final of the 2007 U.S. Amateur here before losing to Colt Knost. He also is staying in the city with the same family as he did five years ago, and they live on Lombard Street, known as the "crookedest street in the world."
Thompson carded seven birdies, including a 10-footer on the 18th hole, and posted an unreal total of 22 putts. The former star at Alabama said he knows he's flying under the radar this week, and that's fine with him.
"Obviously my name's in the spotlight but a lot of people don't know who I am," he said. "And I'm totally OK with that because I've always been a player that just kind of hangs around. I don't give up very easily and I'm proud of that.
"Give Tiger the spotlight. I don't care. I'm going to go out and play my game. If I go out and putt the way I did today, I'll be in contention."
As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.
Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joejulesinq. Read his blog, Golf Inq, at www.philly.com/sports/golfinq