OAKMONT, Pa. — On a demanding day when tough old Oakmont Country Club illustrated again that playing par can be an achievement, only Brittany Lang was in the 60s.
Lang withstood Oakmont's slick, sun-browned greens and temperatures in the 90s to shoot 2-under 69 on Thursday and take a one-shot lead over 2008 champion Inbee Park, amateur Kelli Shean and two others in the first round of the U.S. Women's Open.
"On any golf course, you can shoot a low number," Lang said. "If you're hitting the ball good, you can for sure shoot a low score out here. But if you're not on your game, you can shoot a big one."
Rolling in a 40-foot putt on the 442-yard No. 15 to seize a two-shot lead before giving up a stroke at difficult No. 18, Lang managed to shoot the round of the day at a time of the day — late afternoon and early evening — when Oakmont's greens were chewed up and more unpredictable than ever.
Shean, a South Africa native, and South Korea's Park were joined at 1-under 70 by Koreans M.J. Hur and Amy Yang. Cristie Kerr, America's first world No. 1 after her 12-shot win at the LPGA Championship two weeks ago, was among a more-than-crowded group of 14 at 1-over 72. She was glad to be there, too.
"I think that's a pretty good start for me," said Kerr, who bogeyed the first two holes but came back almost immediately with two birdies.
Seminole's Brittany Lincicome was in another large group at 2 over. Alexis Thompson, who recently turned pro at age 15 although she's not eligible to compete full time on the LPGA Tour, was at 3 over. One-time wunderkind Michelle Wie shot 11-over 82, her worst round since 84 at the Evian Masters in 2007.
Lang threatened to win the Open as an amateur in 2005. She wound up tied for second with amateur-at-the-time Morgan Pressel, two shots behind winner Birdie Kim.
Lang has twice been a runnerup on the tour and has more than $2 million in winnings. What she wants is a win.
"But I know that if I think about winning the tournament, I probably will not win it," the former Duke student said.
Shean, 22 and a University of Arkansas golfer, developed her career after she enrolled in a junior program sponsored by fellow South African Ernie Els, who has repeatedly encouraged her during her career and watched Thursday's round on TV.
"He taught me all the things I needed to know," Shean said.