With the start of the 2013 U.S. Open fast approaching, there are a few storylines dominating the headlines.
Merion's East Course is a brilliantly designed masterpiece that caused the great Jack Nicklaus once said, "Acre for acre, [Merion] may be the best test of golf in the world."
The USGA has prepared the course for months in advance, but Mother Nature has decided to crash the party and make it all about her. The weather isn't the only storyline that is dominating headlines right now, though.
Rainy Conditions Could Translate to Low Scores
Rain has relentlessly soaked the East Course since last weekend. According to the PGATour.com's Jeff Shain, more than five inches of rain has fallen since last Friday, and there's more rain in the forecast on Thursday and Friday, per Weather.com.
Merion's director of golf course operations Matt Shaffer is disappointed that the course won't be firm and fast—as the USGA had hoped and planned for it to be—according to Shain:
I’m disappointed for our members and the USGA. I think everybody was anxious to see it firm and fast and how it would hold up to the likes of the world’s best golfers. If we don’t get those conditions, it’s too bad.
The soaked course will almost certainly translate to lower scores than the USGA anticipated.
Ernie Els believes the soggy course will provide "more birdies than ever," according to Philly.com Sports on Twitter:
Already a shorter course than is typically associated with the U.S. Open, Merion will be much easier to conquer for those who can regularly hit fairways and greens. Instead of a winning score that could have potentially been over par, the winner of this year's U.S. Open will undoubtedly shoot well under par.
More Sergio/Tiger Drama
Sergio Garcia infamously made a comment in poor taste recently about Tiger Woods and "fried chicken," via The Guardian.
Garcia had a chance to nip the entire thing in the bud this week at Merion, but some might argue he only made matters worse. Instead of apologizing to Woods in person, Garcia left a note of apology in Woods' locker, according to USA Today Sports:
Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel also reported that Garcia opted not to apologize to Woods when he had a chance on the driving range, saying "It wasn't the appropriate place, out of respect to him and other players":
Sergio on why he didn't apologize on range: "It wasn't the appropriate place, out of respect to him and other players." Fair enough.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) June 11, 2013
One potential problem with that strategy is that it leaves the door wide open for reporters and fans to interpret the situation with only bits and pieces of the facts.
Some people would have liked to see Garcia offer Woods a sincere, man-to-man apology. Given the sensitive nature of Garcia's initial remarks, and given the way it could have potentially offended others, perhaps Garcia would have been better off with a more direct approach.
Phil Mickelson Makes a Personal Choice
For a while on Tuesday, there was some mystery afoot.
Mickelson was nowhere to be found.
Eventually, the news broke that Mickelson had opted not to practice on Tuesday in order to fly back to California for his daughter's eighth-grade graduation, as reported by Inside Golf Magazine:
Everybody's wondering where Phil Mickelson went - missed his 2:30 presser - reports are he's in San Diego for daughter's graduation.— Inside Golf Magazine (@inside_golf) June 11, 2013
NBC10 sports anchor John Clark provided additional details, reporting Mickelson would be flying back to Merion after the graduation on Wednesday night for a 7:11 a.m. tee time on Thursday morning:
Phil Mickelson has 7:11am tee time Thursday morning and will be flying in night before from daughters graduation— John Clark NBC10 (@johnclarknbc10) June 11, 2013
Mickelson had a poor showing at the Masters earlier this year. He normally plays every week before a major, but a scheduling change altered his routine.
After the tournament, he talked about how a deviation from his normal routine had a lot to do with his performance, via Rex Hoggard of GolfChannel.com: “I just wasn’t as mentally sharp as I needed to be. I need to find another way to prepare for big weeks if I can’t play the week before.”
Some might argue that heading off to California the night before a major could affect Mickelson similarly. Others, like Bleacher Report's Ryan Rudnansky, would argue that he's setting himself up with a perfect mindset to win the tournament.
One thing's for certain, Mickelson's daughter surely has no doubts about how her daddy feels about her.
It was a personal choice for Lefty, and it's one that's hard to argue against.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78