- Associated Press - Thursday, June 16, 2011

BETHESDA, MD. (AP) - British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen was tied for the lead at the U.S. Open after making four birdies over his first 11 holes.

Oosthuizen is at 2-under par, tied with Sweden’s Johan Edfors and Americans Jeff Overton and Ryan Palmer, who are playing in the same threesome Thursday at Congressional Country Club.

Defending champion Graeme McDowell and Ernie Els were part of a seven-way tie at 1 under. Els won the U.S. Open in 1997, the last time it was played at Congressional.

The USGA put the world’s top three players _ Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer _ in the same group. Donald briefly shared the lead at 2 under but made five bogeys to fall to 3 over after his first nine holes.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) _ If birdies are supposed to be hard to come by at the U.S. Open, Johan Edfors isn’t getting the message.

The Swede made three over his first six holes to take the early lead Thursday at the season’s second major.

Edfors, a European Tour player whose best finish at the U.S. Open is 27th, was at 2-under par with half the field on the course at overcast Congressional Country Club.

He was one shot ahead of a pack of 10 players, including defending champion Graeme McDowell, former PGA champion Y.E. Yang, British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Ernie Els, who won the U.S. Open the last time it was played at Congressional, in 1997.

On a calm day that started with a green-softening hour or so of light rain, birdies were available around a course that was expected to yield very few. That was especially true on the par-3 10th. The 218-yard downhill hole over water was supposed to be one of the toughest tests, especially as a starting point for half the players. But the tee box was moved up 19 yards, and it yielded five birdies over the first 90 minutes of play.

Among those making birdie on 10 were world No. 1 Luke Donald and No. 3 Martin Kaymer. They were playing with No. 2 Lee Westwood in the morning’s glamour pairing.

Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy were grouped together for a featured afternoon tee time. There was a 50 percent chance of storms in the afternoon.

Johnson and McIlroy are both trying to overcome major collapses. At last year’s U.S. Open, Johnson took a three-shot lead into the final round but blew it by the fourth hole. McIlroy held onto his four-shot lead at the Masters for a little longer but he, too, imploded.

Both handled their collapses gracefully and said they used it as a learning experience.

The U.S. Open is almost always the most unpredictable of the majors, made more so this year by the absence of Tiger Woods. Woods is rehabbing knee and Achilles injuries and is missing the U.S. Open for the first time since he turned pro in 1997.

The Open has returned to the Washington area for the first time since then. That year, No. 10 was the 18th hole, but closing out a major on a par-3 turned out to be a bust, emphasized when Colin Montgomerie, in the running along with Els, waited more than 10 minutes to putt on No. 17 for fear the noise on the adjacent 18th would disrupt him.

Montgomerie missed, Els finished the tournament with an anticlimactic par and the idea of finishing a major on a par-3 was tossed in the scrap heap.

So, in addition to moving that hole to the start of the back nine and making the old No. 17 the new No. 18, the club tore up the par-3 and transformed it from an uphill shot where the water wasn’t really in play to a downhill shot with a 200-yard forced carry onto a narrow green. Quite a way to kick off the round for half the field on the first two days.

“The average guy can’t play that hole,” Mickelson said in criticizing the design. “He can’t carry that water and get it stopped on that green. So when I play that hole, 3 is a great score.”

But 2 was available, at least early Thursday.

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