2013 US Open: Top Storylines After First Round

Fred Altvater@@tolohgolfrContributor IIJune 14, 2013

2013 US Open: Top Storylines After First Round

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    On the eve of the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club, Phil Mickelson jumped on the GV and flew home to San Diego for some quality family time.

    His daughter was having an all-important eighth-grade graduation ceremony, and Phil did not want to miss the moment.

    Evidently, the accommodations on his jet are somewhat more than adequate. He was able to arrive at the golf course at 5:30 a.m. Thursday morning and post a superb three-under to hold the first-round lead at the U.S. Open.

    Yes, Phil also wins Father-of-the-Year honors unanimously.

Rain Halts Play on Thursday's First Round

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    Five inches of rain dominated the headlines and rendered the golf course unplayable early in the week at Merion Golf Club.

    Rain once again softened the golf course and halted play for nearly three hours on Thursday.

    A severe storm front blew through the Philadelphia area at 8:30 a.m. ET, just two hours after the first tee times at Merion.

    Golfers were pulled off the golf course, and play was not resumed until 11:30 a.m. ET. 

Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott Are All over Par After the First Round

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    Several players were left on the course and needed to complete their first rounds when play was halted for the day at 8:30 p.m. ET.

    The premier grouping of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott played 10 holes on Thursday and were forced to finish their first round on Friday morning. 

    Woods made birdie at No. 13, but bogeys at Nos. 12, 17 and 18 left him at three over par and near the cut line.

    McIlroy joined Woods at three over par, and Scott posted the best score of the group with a two-over-par 72. 

    The three top-ranked players in the world are all near the cut line and will need to post solid second rounds to make the weekend.

Hitting from Divots Is a Major Concern at Merion Golf Club

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    Controlling a golf shot from an old divot is a major concern for all of the golfers this week at Merion Golf Club.

    Due to the course design, especially on the shorter holes, players are forced to lay up to the same area, and it is not a question of if they find a divot but how many divots they must play from during their rounds.

    Rory McIlroy found divots on two consecutive holes on Thursday, and they limited his ability to attack the pins.

    Playing from divots is just another example of the USGA creating a test that requires the U.S. Open champion to possess every shot in the bag.

Luke Donald and Lee Westwood Are Among the Leaders at Merion Golf Club

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    Luke Donald and Lee Westwood both lack major victories on their resumes. Both are consummate ball-strikers, and Merion Golf Club should be a good venue for one of them to collect his first major title.

    Merion Golf Club seems to be made for Luke Donald. He made it to four under par when play was halted on Thursday but still had four of the most difficult holes on the golf course remaining to finish his round.

    Friday morning, he made bogeys at Nos. 16 and 18 to post a two-under-par 68 and finish one shot behind Phil Mickelson.

    Lee Westwood was going along nicely, tied for the lead at three under par, until a nearly perfect shot on the par-four No. 12 found one of the famous wicker baskets that adorn the top of the flagsticks at Merion Golf Club.

    His tee shot found the rough off the tee, and he was forced to wedge it out. His third shot hit the basket and ricocheted 40 yards back down the fairway.

    He finished with a double bogey and fell back to one under par.

    A bogey at No. 17 put him at even-par 70 for his first round.

    Donald and Westwood are both still among the leaders and in position to win their first major.

Merion Golf Club Shows Her Dark Side

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    The overwhelming storyline from the first round of the U.S. Open is the golf course itself. Many felt soft conditions at Merion would render her completely defenseless against the best golfers in the world.

    As the famous sports writer Jim Murray wrote about Merion Golf Club after the 1971 U.S. Open, won by Lee Trevino, “Whatever she may be, she ain’t no lady.”

    At 6,900 yards, Merion Golf Club is considered short by modern-day standards of golf course design. However, the rolling fairways, semiblind shots, thick gnarly rough, strategically placed deep bunkers and severely undulating greens offer more than enough difficulty to create much shaking of heads and gnashing of teeth.

    Only five of the 154 golfers are currently in red numbers, and 91 players could do no better than the projected cut of four over par.

    The USGA proves once again that a classic old-style golf course can provide a difficult and treacherous test for even the best golfers on the planet.