Weir in contention

Tiger Woods couldn’t get off the course fast enough.

Mike Weir acknowledges the gallery after finishing the first round of the U.S. Open in first place at 6-under 64 on Friday. Weir finished the day two shots back thru nine holes of the second round.

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Tiger Woods couldn’t get off the course fast enough.

Mike Weir of Bright’s Grove, Ont., Lucas Glover, Ricky Barnes and Phil Mickelson were among those on the right side of the rain at the U.S. Open and were thrilled they didn’t have to leave until it was too dark to continue.

Other Canadians on the course included Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., who finished 3 over 73, and Andrew Parr of London, Ont., and Calgary’s Stephen Ames — both at 4 over after first round.

Grey, dreary clouds welcomed those who returned to the rain-delayed tournament in the morning, which seemed to fit Woods’ mood.

The world’s No. 1 player gave back four shots over his final four holes to finish his opening round at 4-over 74. He was five shots out of the clubhouse lead after the morning groups finished, and slid further as the day went along.

“I was even par with four to go,” Woods said. “I mean, it’s not like I was hitting it all over the place. I was hitting a lot of good shots. Unfortunately, I just didn’t finish off the round the way I needed to.”

So, unlike what happened on his last trip to Bethpage in 2002, this U.S. Open won’t be a wire-to-wire victory for Woods.

Not even close.

Sunshine made just a cameo Friday at Bethpage Black, enough to dry the fairways and keep the greens soft. It was a perfect combination for scoring at the U.S. Open, and Weir seized on the rare opportunity.

Despite a double bogey on Weir’s back nine, the former Masters champion closed with back-to-back birdies for a 6-under 64, giving him a two-shot lead over Peter Hanson of Sweden and the lowest score in the U.S. Open in six years.

Not long after he finished, Weir and the late starters headed back out for the second round.

“It’s about as easy as this course will ever play,” Weir said between rounds. “Our side definitely had a big advantage. For us to be able to play in nice conditions all day like this is huge.”

When a day that lasted just under 13 hours finally ended, Bethpage Black turned red on the leaderboard with 16 players under par. All but two of those players — Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland and amateur Drew Weaver — were on the course.

Glover was atop the leaderboard at 6-under par through 13 holes, one shot ahead of Barnes, and 10 shots clear of Woods, who completed a 74 in the sloppy morning for his worst start in a major in three years.

Glover shot 69 earlier in the day, then played bogey-free until it was too dark to continue. Barnes, who opened with a 67, decided to finish in twilight and nearly three-putted the 18th green.

Weir played the front nine in 2 over to fall two shots behind.

Mickelson, whose popularity in New York shot up even more after disclosing his wife has breast cancer, challenged for the lead until he missed some short putts coming in and settled for a 69.

Even after two bogeys on the last four hours, his spirits were high.

“We want to play as much golf as we can,” Lefty said.

It sure didn’t look that way after he chopped out from the left rough to the right rough on No. 2 and missed a four-foot putt that led to double bogey, although he rallied with three birdies over a four-hole stretch.

Mickelson, a runner-up four times in the U.S. Open, was 1 under through 11 holes.

All of them realized they caught a huge break.

Of the 25 players who shot par or better in the first round, only seven came from the first wave of tee times.

The course played almost two strokes harder in the morning — averaging 74.8 to 72.9 for the afternoon players.

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