By Mark Lamport-Stokes
OAKMONT, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - The last time Bubba Watson played a U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, he finished at nine-over par to earn a share of fifth place so he always knew he was in for a tough time in this week's edition.
The American left-hander, renowned for his brilliant shot-making, produced both good and bad on the challenging par-70 layout to end a weather-disrupted first round on Thursday one stroke off the early lead with four holes to play.
"I just kept fighting," twice Masters champion Watson told reporters after mixing five birdies with three bogeys to get to two under before play was suspended for the day with only nine players completing the opening round.
"You don't really think about the mistakes or the bogeys because everybody's going to make bogeys out here. The golf course is that difficult."
Watson was the only player among the early starters who managed to birdie the 258-yard par-three eighth, saying with a smile: "I got lucky and made a 30-footer.
"It was a good day. Obviously, I wish I could have finished ... but it will be some good rest and then just get ready and play the last few holes.
"Hopefully we can get the golf in tomorrow as well," he said after a frustrating day that included three weather interruptions.
Nine years ago, when the U.S. Open was last played at Oakmont, Watson's 289 total gave him a share of fifth place, his best finish in the championship.
He had that in mind when he bogeyed his third hole on Thursday to slide to one over.
"When you're at one over, I've got eight more bogeys I can make and still finish fifth, when you look at it from that perspective (from 2007)," grinned Watson.
"The weather didn't affect my play today. The golf course affects the play more than anything. We always got off the golf course before the rain, so the rain had no chance to affect us or anything.
"I came out with three birdies after the first delay, so I guess it helped me better than it hurt me," said Watson, who ended Thursday just one stroke behind the surprise leader, PGA Tour rookie Andrew Landry, who had one hole to complete.
(Editing by Larry Fine)