Padraig Harrington avoided some capital punishment in Washington DC to get his US Open challenge off and running.
As debutant Shane Lowry staved off tummy trouble to open with a one over 72, the triple major winner made a bogey six at his final hole for a level par 71 that could have been three shots lower - or higher.
The Dubliner avoided total disaster when he tangled with the woods after a pull-hook ricocheted into the trees Rory McIroy Augusta style at the 11th, fell foul of a fidgety marshal at the 15th and crashed his tee shot into a towering crane at the 18th.
But while he limited some of his wild tee shots to three bogeys, he also had four great birdies and could easily have had four more with better luck on the greens.
Asked if he had a problem with the greens, he said pointedly: “I might have been over-reading them at times but no. Anyway, I’d prefer to remember the putts I holed, not the putts I missed.”
Confessing that the most pleasing thing about his round was his score and his play with some prototype Wilson irons that won’t be on the market for another six months, Harrington said: “I certainly would have taken 71 going out there but I need to find something for the next three days.
“I wasn’t as comfortable out there as maybe I should have been. I would have liked to have been under par but I think everyone going out would sign for a 71.
“I’m happy with the score but am still a bit anxious out there and I am in better form than I showed. I feel like I need a little more over the next three days but who knows, three more 71s might not be good enough but it might be too.”
Admitting that he is “still searching” for his key, Harrington mixed the brilliant with the scrappy on his front nine - hooking into the woods at the 11th and slicing into a crane at the 18th before escaping with bogeys.
He missed birdie chances inside 10 feet - at the 14th he missed from five feet up the hill, at the 16th he was wide from six feet and at 17th he was again wide with a 10 footer. But he also birdied the 12th from a foot and saved a brilliant par from 30 feet at the 15th after a marshal put him off on the tee and he carved his drive into the right rough and came up short of the green in two.
On his back nine, he birdied third from five feet, saved par from 10 feet at the fifth and then birdied the par-five sixth to get to within two of the lead on one under before he overshot the 636-yard ninth from the rough and missed an eight footer for par.
He added: “If I’d birdied the last for level par instead of bogeying, I’d feel better than I do now. Certainly I missed a few birdie chances out there, but I also made a few out there as well. It’s probably a fair reflection.”
Sick Lowry wasn’t in the mood for a full Irish breakfast as he battled tummy trouble on his US Open debut.
But the Clara ace, 24, finished with a good taste in his mouth as he brilliantly birdied the 18th from five feet for a one over 72.
Pleased with a round that featured three birdies and four bogeys, he said: “I didn’t feel that I was playing that well but I got it around and I kept my momentum up because I putted really well today.
“I actually don’t feel great, to be honest. I had a few cramps on the way around, but it was good to birdie the last. I’m happy enough.”
Two over par for his round playing the terrifying 18th, Lowry drove into the rough but with 200 yards to the pin, he landed a seven iron just short of the green and chased it up to just five feet from the stick.
Happy just to avoid the water there, Lowry was delighted with the bonus of a birdie.
He said: “I was just trying to get it down there somewhere and not hit it left. It’s always good to birdie. That hole would probably play closer to an average of five week so a three on it was great.”
He added: “I didn’t feel that I was playing that well. And got it around. I kept my momentum up. And I putted really well today. But for one really short putt, everything looked like it was going in or burning the edge. It was good to birdie the last. I’m happy enough.
“I definitely I would have taken  going out there. A bit of rain early on kind of softened up the course. I didn’t hit it that great off the tee, but I managed to get it around.
“Out here, you went out with the mindset of, you know, I know it might sound quite negative, but not to make doubles. You can deal with bogeys out here, but a double is quite hard to take. Anytime I hit it out of position on the tee, on the fairway, I left myself a number, try to leave 10, 15 feet for par and hole it from there. If you’re leaving yourself 10, 15 feet for par, it takes double out of play, really.”
Harrington played far better than his 71 at times but was also poor on the greens when birdies beckoned and escaped severe punishment for some wayward tee shots.
“My iron play was good, and my score was pretty good,” Harrington said. “As I said, I’d be pleased with the score, even though I should have been a couple better. But definitely, you know, when I got it in position, I did hit my irons pretty close.
“I have a new set of irons in the bag, and there definitely seems to be a nice bit of control in them. And they seem to fly very nicely with a bit more of spin. It kind of suits a U.S. Open test.
“They’re Wilson Staff V2. It’s just the lucky thing about being a pro, they’re next year’s model. I get them six months in advance so they’re forged irons coming out next year.”