Charl Schwartzel: Shared lead after three early birdies
Charl Schwartzel was disappointed to waste a flying start as he headed a significant South African challenge at the US Open.
After a lengthy, early storm delay, the 2011 Masters champion roared into a share of the lead with three consecutive birdies from the 13th - his third.
But he paid the price for missing fairways as he dropped shots at the 18th, fourth and fifth holes before parring in to return a level-par 70.
"I made three bogeys and that was all missed fairways, so it's very penalising," Schwartzel said. "It's a lot tougher than what they say it is."
Schwartzel insisted he was not surprised that nobody managed to get any lower than three under despite soft conditions and a Merion layout measuring less than 7,000 yards.
"Everyone was talking about the length of it. It is short," he added. "But the holes that are short, you're hitting five irons on the tee. There's nothing short about it.
"There's not much luck involved. You need to hit quality shots."
Schwartzel's compatriot Tim Clark also got off to an excellent start with birdies at 12 and 13, although he slipped back to one over when he followed a double-bogey at the fifth with another dropped shot at six.
He bounced back with a birdie at the eighth to match Schwartzel's 70, which he insisted could have been far lower had he enjoyed better fortune on the greens.
"I had quite a few putts hit the hole," Clark said. "On the front I had a couple chances inside 10 feet. I would have been with two or three under. I probably played well enough to shoot that. You just can't make any mistakes.
"Even par and the way I'm playing, I feel comfortable with that."
George Coetzee was two under and bogey-free after 13 holes, but he made his first mistake at the 14th and dropped further shots at the final two holes to record a 71.
"My irons weren't great but I was patient and got some opportunities," said Coetzee. "I left a couple of nice opportunities out there. I have to drive it well. That's the key this week.
"The rough is brutal, the fairways are hard and it actually plays very long with how wet it is. It's what you want in a US Open. It's tough."