After a torrential downpour and a long weather delay on Thursday, the 2013 U.S. Open continued play at 12:10 p.m. ET as players took to the soggy fairways of Merion Golf Club.
One of the shortest courses we’ll see this season, Merion will play at just under 7,000 yards this weekend. For the tour’s longest hitters, the course’s length is a big advantage, but with rain having already soaked the fairways, that may no longer be the case.
Until things dry up, expect players to favor an accurate tee shot into Merion’s ultra-tight fairways, negating the length factor and making low scores a lot less likely.
The greens were extremely slow to start the day, but with the rain having subsided, expect to see the putting surface speed up progressively throughout the closing hours of action—provided Mother Nature doesn’t change her mind.
At this point in the round, only seven players are at one-under or better for the day. When all is said and done, par could prove to be a terrific score heading into Day 2.
Let’s take a closer look at a couple of those storylines and highlight the one player everyone will be watching when he tees off at 4:44 p.m. ET.
How Low Can They Go?
Prediction: Leader Will Be Alone at Four-Under after Day 1
Playing on a rain-soaked course has its advantages, but the benefits of soft greens only go so far. At some point, scoring well at Merion will become an uphill battle.
With soggy fairways and sticky bunkers, accuracy and precision will come at a premium. It doesn’t help that the second cut of rough is incredibly thick this weekend, either.
Two-under is the best score we've seen thus far, but don’t expect too many players to reach that mark.
And along with course conditions, simply creating continuity will also be a difficult task with more adverse weather conditions closing in. As was the case with Ian Poulter (who birdied his first three holes prior to the delay before slipping back to one-under), momentum will be hard to come by.
Ultimately, four-under could very well be the high-water mark for the opening round.
A Slippery Slope
Prediction: Poor Putting Will Dominate Late-Day Action
So much of what happens to end the day will depend on the weather. According to Weather.com, Merion could be under more water later in the evening as thunderstorms continue to close in.
But if the rain holds off, putting could get especially tricky by the time the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy tee off.
As the greens continue to dry, speed will become a major factor. For players who started the round facing soft, soggy greens, adjusting to a quicker pace becomes an added challenge.
Merion’s greens aren’t exactly friendly when they’re rolling perfectly anyway. At this point in the round, only four holes (three sub-400-yard par-fours) are playing at an average score below par, and poor putting has been the biggest reason for that.
If the greens start drying up this afternoon, expect to see a lot of attempts come to a stop outside the two-putt range with a bevy of bogeys as the result.
The No. 1 We’re All Watching
Prediction: Tiger Woods Will Shoot a 68 on Thursday—If He Plays
Woods hasn’t won a major in five years, but considering the way he’s played so far this season, it’s hard to believe the world No. 1 won’t put on a terrific performance this weekend.
The prohibitive favorite to triumph at Merion, Woods is facing the same expectations that have followed him throughout his career. Expectations lead to pressure, but with the rest of the field hovering around par so far, there isn’t much reason for Woods to attack his round feeling any pressure at all.
While Tiger thrives off playing the front-runner role in majors, he won’t be worried about getting off to a hot start on Thursday. As long as he limits mistakes and focuses on playing precise golf, he’ll walk away from his opening round with a respectable score, just off the pace of the Day 1 leaders.
That is, of course, if he actually plays on Thursday.
Given the weather report, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Woods’ opening round pushed back due to thunderstorms expected to roll in around the time Woods is scheduled to tee off.