Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson walk to the 11th tee during the first round of the US Open on Thursday. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP

SOUTHAMPTON, New York – Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth were among the big names whose victory hopes were almost blown away on a dramatic, windswept opening morning at the US Open on Thursday.

Any hopes that the Shinnecock Hills course would yield some good early scores proved unfounded as a strong wind whipped across the treeless layout from the moment the first groups teed off just before 7am local time (1pm SA time).

With half the field on the course in the first round, Englishman Ian Poulter and American Matt Kuchar led at 2-under-par after nine and seven holes respectively.

Englishman Justin Rose, the second favourite behind Dustin Johnson, also started smoothly, even par after 11 holes, but good scores were few and far between.

Four-time major champion McIlroy and three-times major winner Spieth, playing with Phil Mickelson in one of the so-called featured groups, featured for all the wrong reasons after teeing off at the 10th hole.

McIlroy plunged to six-over after eight holes, while Spieth was not faring much better at five-over.

McIlroy had consecutive double-bogeys at the 13th and 14th holes, and later bogeyed the par-five 16th, where he barely made it out of a fairway bunker, his ball catching the long fescue grass on the face of the trap.

The ball, however, had enough momentum to make it through the grass, if only barely, and trickle back to the fairway, allowing the Northern Irishman to avoid what could have been a calamity.

Spieth fared almost as badly, making a triple bogey at his second hole, a par-three, where he found a greenside bunker, and then blasted his second shot over the green.

He compounded his problems by hitting his first chip shot a little delicately up on to the crowned green, before running up in an effort to mark his ball before it rolled back to his feet.

Alas, he was too late.

Mickelson, needing to win to complete the career grand slam, did not help his cause early either, slumping to 4-over after eight holes.

Tiger Woods had a late tee time with world number one Johnson and number two Justin Thomas.

The wind was forecast to pick up even further strength in the afternoon, a prospect that cannot have thrilled the late starters if they were tuning into the early TV and internet coverage.