His playing partners may each have had a major championship to their names, but Tim Clark showed his mettle with a solid even-par 70 in the opening round of the US Open.
On a stop-start day at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania, Clark’s score was matched by Charl Schwartzel, leaving the pair three shots off the clubhouse pace set by Phil Mickelson, and four off Luke Donald who was four-under through 14.
The other South African in the Clark-Schwartzel group didn’t fare as well: Louis Oosthuizen carded a five-over-par 75. With the course playing as tough as it seems to have done on the opening day, that might not be out of it.
That trio was part of a lucky group of players who managed to get play done on the opening day. “If there are more delays, it’s not going to be easy,” said Clark when he finished. “Certainly nice to get it done in reasonably good conditions.”
There were two South Africans in reasonably good shape out on the course when play was suspended for the day who will return early on Friday and attempt to get in touch with the lead: Ernie Els and Branden Grace were level through eight and seven respectively.
The three other South Africans in the field were George Coetzee who scrambled his way to a solid one-over, Jaco van Zyl who battled to a three-over 73, and Rory Sabbatini, who was on seven-over-par.
Clark was well satisfied with his position after the opening round. “It’s good,” he said. “More importantly just the way I felt like I played and just in control of everything. Even par and the way I’m playing, I feel comfortable with that.”
Schwartzel had chances to go low, but the tough course made life difficult for him “It’s a lot tougher than they say it is,” he said. “There are a lot of holes that are very penalising. I made three bogeys and that was all missed fairways.”
Coetzee was happy with his start, and, if he manages to internalise the lessons he learnt in the first round fast, he could stay in contention. “Actually my irons weren’t great today, but I was patient and got some opportunities,” he said. “I left a couple of nice opportunities out there. I have to drive it well, I think that’s kind of the key this week.”