Roberto Castro didn’t qualify for the US Open this year. He felt as if he played in one at Congressional on Thursday in the AT&T National at Bethesda, Md.
Castro ran off three straight birdies late in his round for a 5-under-par 66, giving him the lead on a tough day that didn’t yield too many low scores considering the cloud cover and relatively soft conditions.
Billy Horschel, who tied for fourth in the real US Open two weeks ago at Merion, began his day with a 50-foot birdie putt, added a pair of birdies over the next three holes, then hung on for a 68. That was the best score among the early starters. Bud Cauley had a 68 in the afternoon.
‘‘It’s like another US Open,’’ Horschel said. ‘‘Off the fairways, the rough is thick. Fortunately, the greens are soft so they’re really receptive. It’s still a tough golf course.’’
Congressional has hosted the US Open three times, and it looks like it could handle another with a moment’s notice.
The course is among the longest this year. The rough is denser than usual, putting an extra premium on the tee shot.
Jim Furyk, Nicolas Colsaerts, and Ben Kohles were at 69, and no one else from the morning managed to break 70.
Davis Love III had an 83 with a sore hip and then withdrew, not wanting to risk further injury. Rory Sabbatini withdrew with a sore back after he was 8-over in 12 holes. Charlie Beljan had an 84.
Champions — John Huston shot a 5-under 65 to take the first-round lead in the Senior Players Championship in Pittsburgh.
Huston started on No. 10 and was even par halfway through his round before making a big move on the front nine at soggy Fox Chapel. Huston shot 5-under 30 coming in, including four birdies and an eagle on the short par-4 seventh hole.
Fred Couples, Duffy Waldorf, Fred Funk, and Russ Cochran were a stroke back in the third major on the Champions Tour schedule. In his Champions debut, Colin Montgomerie shot 69 and is tied for 21st.
European — Saying he’s ‘‘feeling a bit lost’’ in a difficult year, Rory McIlroy shot a 2-over 74 in the Irish Open at Maynooth to fall eight strokes behind first-round leader Oscar Floren.
The second-ranked McIlroy had four bogeys and two birdies in wet and overcast conditions at Carton House on the outskirts of Dublin.
Floren had a 6-under 66. He drove the green on the par-4 13th and holed a 20-foot eagle putt.
Peter Uihlein of Mattapoisett, Mass., was a stroke back along with Joost Luiten, Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, Michael Hoey and Shane Lowry.