US Open golf: Bad weather halts play just two hours into first round

ARDMORE, Pennsylvania (AFP) - Bad weather brought play to an abrupt halt at the 113th US Open on Thursday after just under two hours of first-round play had been completed.

The disruption had been widely expected for the last few days, with a strong storm system tracking out of the Midwest and into Pennsylvania and there were fears that worse was to come during the day.

When play was suspended, English Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter had stormed to the top of the nascent leaderboard with birdies at his first three holes.

Big-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, a team-mate of Poulter at Medinah last September, was at two-under after seven holes.

He was joined on that mark after just a handful of holes by South African pair Tim Clark and Charl Schwartzel along with American Charley Hoffman.

"This is one really nasty-looking storm that will hit at 9am and last the entire day. Not much golf," Poulter had posted on his Twitter account before his round got going.

Tournament favourite Tiger Woods was not due off until the afternoon, going out with the two players next to him in the global rankings - Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott.

But the entire 156-strong field were subject to what the weather gods were about to throw at them.

The historic East course at Merion has already been doused by heavy rain in the last few days and there was apprehension over what might follow on Thursday with the possibility of damaging winds, flash flooding and hail.

United States Golf Association (USGA) executive director Mike Davis believes that Merion, at 6,996 yards, the first US Open course under 7,000 yards since Shinnecock Hills on Long Island in 2004, will survive both the storm and an assault from the world's best golfers.

"There's a wonderful balance to the course in terms of ebb and flow," he said.

"There are opportunities to catch up with birdies, but there are also holes that are as hard as any that you'll see in any US Open. It really is magical."