Tiger Woods made a dreadful start to his U.S. Open campaign as the tricky Shinnecock Hills course made the world's best including Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth toil on Thursday.

Woods, a 14-time major champion, made a dreadful triple-bogey seven on the first and followed up with another dropped shot at the second, which left him four over through two.

Confounding breezes gusting past 20 miles per hour meant Shinnecock was playing tough under sunny skies, rewarding those who hit their spots, scrambled gamely and avoided big numbers.

Scott Piercy and Ian Poulter were among those to do just that, the former - an alternate who a week ago was not in the field - signing for the first red score at one under par, making three birdies and two bogeys.

Poulter later matched that score, while the in-form Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera Bello, Peter Uihlein and Chun An Yu were among those out on course also on one under.

But many of the game's big hitters were proving the old adage that a golf tournament cannot be won on Thursday but can be lost.

McIlroy toiled to a 10-over 80, while Spieth fared little better on eight over and Jason Day finished his round at one stroke better off than McIlroy.

Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson (both seven over) and Brooks Koepka (five over) were also among those who struggled in their opening round.

And spare a thought for poor Scott Gregory, who posted a 22-over 92.