Luke Donald opens with 79

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the No. 1 player in the world, we have come to expect a lot from Luke Donald. Lately we could depend on him to get double-digit top 10s and a few wins.

He tempts the betting houses around the majors with wins that suggest he finally should get his first major championship.

But each time he falls short when he gets to those events.

Perhaps, he's done it again after an opening-round 79 at the U.S. Open on Thursday. The 34-year-old Englishman had nine bogeys and no birdies and is 13 shots behind leader Michael Thompson.

Playing with Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, Donald hit just 6 of 14 fairways.

"My putter kind of went cold today, otherwise I could have probably ground out some more respectable score," Donald said. "But this place is tough. I feel like even from [Wednesday] it got a lot tougher, and I didn't hit the shots when I needed to."

Can he rebound on Friday and make the cut? Going out in the morning, he will face a softer course, but one that USGA boss Mike Davis said will mimic the conditions from Thursday.

"It played really the way we want a championship course to play," Davis said. "It certainly was a good test of golf.

"It tested virtually every part of their game. And I think the key was we got the course a little bit more firm to where it had been a little bit softer in practice rounds than we would have wanted, and the grounds staff and our greens section felt that we really needed to hydrate the course thoroughly to really get through the next four days."

Collectively, the top three players in the world were a combined 19-over par on Thursday. Westwood was the low man in the group with a 3-over 73. McIlroy had a 77.

"The top three in the world and we make three (birdies) between us," Donald said. "It shows how tough it is."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.