By Mark Lamport-Stokes
OAKMONT, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Players watched soccer on television, drank coffee, checked mobile phones and just bided their time as they extended their patient approach at Oakmont to waiting out three weather delays at the U.S. Open on Thursday.
Almost four hours of scheduled play was wiped out by thunderstorms and heavy rain at Oakmont Country Club before the opening round was eventually suspended for the day with just nine players having completed the full 18 holes.
The U.S. Open is known for being the most exacting of the four majors with an emphasis on staying patient and grinding out pars. Being able to maintain composure during frustrating weather interruptions amplified that challenge.
"We are just filling in time. You can't really control the weather. You can't let it fluster you," England's former world number one Lee Westwood told reporters after ending the day at one under after 13 holes.
"The U.S. Open is a test of patience. This just adds to it. So try and get your head around it and make the best of it. It's obviously a frustrating day having to keep coming off, but there's nothing you can do about the weather."
Westwood, just two shots off the early lead, was among several players who took advantage of the first weather interruption to watch television coverage in the media dining tent of the England v Wales soccer match at Euro 2016.
"It is good at the moment as we've got the Euros to watch in the weather delays," said the 43-year-old, who is still seeking his first major title.
"We managed to watch the second half of the England-Wales game in the first delay, which was good, then nearly all of the Northern Ireland game, and then the Germany-Poland game just now," he said, referring to the third stoppage in play.
One of the biggest frustrations for the players was not being permitted to warm up on the practice area after the first weather delay.
"That was a bad one," said Masters champion Danny Willett of England, who was four over par after 12 holes when play was eventually suspended for the day.
"We sat in a cabin for an hour and 10 minutes behind the seventh tee without being given a chance to hit any balls or do anything.
"It's not like you are playing a Sunday medal. You're in a U.S. Open, and they don't give you a chance to even hit a few balls."
For American world number five Rickie Fowler, the biggest problem was trying to maintain on-course rhythm in and out of the weather delays.
"It was probably about as easy as the course was going to play this morning when we first went out," said Fowler, who ended the day at six over with six holes to complete. "We didn't have a whole lot of wind, soft conditions.
"And then second time going out, we didn't get to hit any balls ... so it was tough to come right back out there. The wind started to pick up. It's tough to get into a rhythm, obviously.
"The course was playable with the softer greens, but I struggle with that. So it was a bit of a long day."
(Editing by Larry Fine)