Ardmore, PA – Luke Donald took advantage of the softer conditions Thursday afternoon and grabbed the lead with the first round of the U.S. Open suspended due to darkness.
Donald birdied three in a row on the back side to move to minus-4. The Englishman, who only completed 13 holes before the horn sounded, has shot in the 60s just once in the opening round in nine previous U.S. Open starts.
Phil Mickelson, playing on little sleep after flying back from his daughter's grade school graduation, carded a 3-under 67 in the early wave to grab the clubhouse lead.
Masters champion Adam Scott is also 3-under, but only managed 11 holes in his first round.
Defending champion Webb Simpson was 2-under par through eight holes and shared third place with Mathew Goggin and Alistair Presnell.
Nicolas Colsaerts was second behind Mickelson after the morning wave. The long-hitting Belgian carded a 1-under 69. When play was called, he shared seventh place with nine others, including Lee Westwood.
Three-time champion Tiger Woods, who was paired with Rory McIlroy and Scott for the first two rounds, was struggling with his putter. Woods stood at 2- over par through 10 holes and left himself a short par putt when play was halted for the day.
Woods looked as though he hurt his left arm on his second shot to the 11th green, which came up well short. He didn't comment on that after his round though.
"It's going to be a fast night," Woods said. "It's kind of the way the Tour has been this year. We've had a lot of bad weather this year and this is the way it's been. I've got a lot of holes to play tomorrow. And hopefully I can play a little better than I did today."
Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel was among those that opened with an even-par 70. He stands alongside Tim Clark, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and Jerry Kelly, who double-bogeyed the last.
Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Steve Stricker, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter posted opening-round 71s, while Hunter Mahan and Stewart Cink shot 72s. Nick Watney, Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia were among those at 3-over 73.
There were two weather stoppages on Thursday. The first lasted three hours, 32 minutes, while the second stoppage was for 45 minutes. Play was finally called for the night at 8:16 p.m. (ET).
The first round will resume at 7:15 a.m. on Friday, with the second round scheduled to start at 9:45 a.m.
Donald was on the course when the second stoppage hit. He started with birdies at one and three, but stumbled to a bogey on the tough par-4 fifth. Play was stopped shortly after he parred the sixth.
When play resumed, Donald kept making pars, five in a row in all. He birdied the par-4 11th and came right back with a birdie at 12.
Donald, whose best finish in an Open is a tie for 12th in 2006 at Winged Foot, rolled in a 4-footer for birdie and the lead at the short par-3 13th. As he, Westwood and Martin Kaymer walked to the 14th, the horns blew to stop play for the evening.
"I birdied my last three holes, 11, 12, 13. Those are kind of the holes you want to make an easy score if you can," Donald said. "Obviously the weather conditions are making the course a lot softer, and you can attack the pins a little bit more. So it's playing as gentle as it might play so far, and obviously this afternoon not much wind.
"If you were going to make a score, today was a good day. I've obviously got five holes left and five pretty tough ones to finish, but really happy with the way I started my round."
Mickelson led the morning wave players by two strokes as just he and Colsaerts posted scores in red figures.
Mickelson 3-putted for bogey on his opening hole, the 11th. He erased that mistake with a birdie on the short par-3 13th.
"The greens were much faster on the course than on the practice green," said Mickelson when asked about his opening 3-putt. "And they were about the same speed as what I had been practicing on back home. About 14 1/2 (on the stimpmeter) I would guess."
After five pars in a row, Mickelson birdied the first from long range as his ball dropped into the cup on its last revolution. He parred his next five after that.
"I might have used just a little caffeine boost there at the turn," Mickelson joked. "I got fortunate I didn't go in the water on No. 5. I advanced it down there to where I had a sand wedge in, and hit that to about 12 feet and made the putt. Then, I made a 7- or 8-footer at the sixth. Those two par putts, those are momentum builders that are important in the rounds at U.S. Opens."
Mickelson later birdied the seventh and came back two holes later with a 22- foot birdie effort at the par-3 ninth. He parred his last to head to the clubhouse with a 1-shot lead over Kelly, who was on the 17th at the time.
NOTES: Donald had hit only eight of 13 greens in regulation before play was called ... Mickelson hit 13 of 18 greens in regulation and 11 of 14 fairways ... The two weather delays combined to last four hours, 17 minutes ... Ireland's Kevin Phelan was the low amateur in the clubhouse as he started with a 1-over 71.