Defending champion Tiger Woods needed to be at his combative best to rescue par at the opening hole as the 109th US Open got under way under dark skies and in persistent drizzle at Bethpage Black. With rain threatening to stay the course throughout the second major of the year, the par-70 New York monster which saw only Woods manage a finishing score under par when it first hosted the championship in 2002 was set to play even longer than its 7,426 yards, and the United States Golf Association were ready to keep their promise to move tee boxes forward during the week. The world No 1, who won his third US Open title in the sunshine at Torrey Pines last year with an epic 19-hole play-off victory over Rocco Mediate, got off to the worst possible start this morning when he hooked his opening tee shot some 40 yards left of the fairway. Playing in a marquee group with Open and US PGA champion Padraig Harrington and this year's Masters winner Angel Cabrera of Argentina, Woods's second shot sent him into a greenside bunker but he still managed to get up and down for par on the 430-yard dog-legged opener. Harrington and Cabrera were not so fortunate, both bogeying the par four as the rain grew stronger, with the Irishman three-putting. Birdies were at a premium, with American JP Hayes the first player in the red numbers, breaking par at his first hole, the 508-yard par-four 10th, which played the most difficult of the 18 in 2002, only to give it up with a bogey at the 504-yard, par-four 12th, second most difficult in 2002. Vijay Singh was another finding early success with a birdie at the shortest par-four hole, the 389-yard second. And he was joined atop the developing leaderboard by the American qualifier and former British Amateur champion Drew Weaver, who birdied the first par-five on the course, the 517-yard fourth. Again, both Singh and Weaver were quickly back at level par, the Fijian with a bogey at the par-three third and the American bogeying the par-four fifth. That left Argentina's Andres Romero in front as he birdied his first hole at the 10th.