This is the 40th major championship since Woods' last major title at the 2008 U.S. Open, and he's played in just 26 of them due to injury.
In ideal scoring conditions in the afternoon, no one could catch him.
Shinnecock can punish anyone in a NY minute. There's a disaster on every single hole. Instead, McIlroy hammered his approach into the face of the bunker, resulting in a bogey on the easiest hole on the course.
"I didn't putt well today", said Woods. "I drove it pretty good for most of the day, just never took advantage of the opportunities". Compatriot Tim Wilkinson, at six-over after the first round, had a solid two-over 72 on Saturday (NZ time) to make the cut on the number at eight-over.
Poulter didn't lose sight of being in a tie for fourth, five shots out of the lead.
He picked up two of his birdies on the par 3s, an 8-iron to 8 feet on the scary 11th, and the long putt on No 7. "I went the aggressive route and you can't really do that. Unfortunately, I just haven't done that".
The U.S. Open Sigh goes something like this: When your ball comes to rest (at last), you inhale deeply, your shoulders rising as your lungs fill with air, then you exhale slowly, hoping that long and measured breath will assuage your frustration before it morphs into rage.
"Tested", McIlroy said, "but punished if you hit a bad shot".
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It is Johnson's unflappability - along with a game that won't quit - that would seem to separate him from such situations in the weekend to come.
Not one of them is in the top 30 with only Aaron Baddeley and Marc Leishman, who both shot four-over par 74s, remotely in contention. Woods, who was considered one of the favorites heading into this year's U.S. Open, failed to make the cut for the weekend portion of the event.
Former champion Rory McIlroy carded a 10-over-par 80. Jason Day opened with a 79 and missed the cut. That has a fellow top-ranked player, Jordan Spieth, impressed, via PGA Tour: "Dustin Johnson is arguably the most talented player on the PGA Tour".
Woods ran up a triple-bogey seven on the 407-yard par four in a first round of 78 which at least was not too far outside the scoring average of 76.47 on a windswept Thursday.
In tough, windy conditions Woods got off to a frightful start with a triple-bogey seven at the first hole and later added a four-putt double at the par-four 13th.
But Woods delivered a sharp response to a journalist who asked him if he remained confident about being able to win majors again.
"There's not many birdies", he said. His driving let him down thereafter, but he fought off a bogey at the par-4 14th with a birdie at the par-5 16th.
He played the next 11 holes in level par before making his move with three birdies in four holes.