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Ardmore, Pa. -- Only Phil Mickelson can do what he does. Only Phil Mickelson would even dare to try it. 

 Phil finished second in the St. Jude Classic in Memphis on Sunday, flew to Philadelphia on Monday then took a flight back home to California later that day to attend his daughter's eighth grade graduation.

This is the U.S. Open; not some corporate-sponsored Pro-Am. Is he nuts?

Yes.

Mickelson took a red eye back to Philly on Wednesday night, landing around 3:30 in the morning for a 7:11 a.m. tee time. Did the man even sleep?

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Ardmore, Pa. — Philadelphia is notorious for its passionate and opinionated fanbase, so it was expected for Sergio Garcia to become a bit of a punching bag during the first round of the U.S. Open at Merion. Through his first three-and-a-half holes before the weather horn blew, the reaction was relatively tame. In a way, it was even a little cowardly.

The 11th tee was stacked with fans early on Thursday, but by the time Garcia's group reached its first tee, the crowd had thinned considerably, mostly following Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Keegan Bradley or the group after that with Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker.

Still, the lure of seeing Sergio kept a good number of fans at 11, but it was, by and large, a positive reaction at the tee.

Most of the fans swallowed their inner "Philly" and acted like traditional golf fans, cheering for everyone but cheering louder for the players they actually like.

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Ardmore, Pa.  — The practice range and putting green at the 2013 U.S. Open are located at Merion's West Course, roughly a mile-and-a-half from where this year's championship will be held. Do not try to walk there.

The course at Merion is fantastic, but the logistics are an issue for both the fans and the players. Some players have commented that they will need to leave an extra 15-20 minutes between their practice session and tee time when play begins on Thursday. Others were concerned about missing their tee times altogether because of transportation issues. 

What happens with the logistics of the range early in the tournament will be worth watching, but what happened on the range on Wednesday is the focus of this behind-the-ropes look at the 2013 U.S. Open.

 

Rory on the Range

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ARDMORE, Pa. — How low can they go? That's the buzz around Merion Golf Club as players finish up the last day of practice rounds before the 2013 U.S. Open.

How low? 

Some think the lows could be record-breaking. There is always a buzz around a course in the days leading up to a major tournament—this course is too hard, that course has unfair rough, this course has greens that are too fast—but rarely in recent memory has so much buzz been about how the course might be too easy for the players.

How easy?

The number 62 has been bandied about all week, and while some players don't think any U.S. Open setup will yield a score that low, others look at the short and wet conditions at Merion and see the history books in sight. 

The record low-score total for the U.S. Open is 63, first set by Johnny Miller at Oakmont Country Club (outside Pittsburgh) in 1973, and matched three times—by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf and Vijay Singh.

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Ardmore, Pa. — Tiger Woods spoke to a standing-room only press contingent on Tuesday and kept his comments understandably measured when it came to the hot topic heading into Merion: potential dinner plans with Sergio Garcia. 

Woods had a brief exchange with Garcia at the practice range on Monday that was caught by the Golf Channel cameras and he was asked if they discussed Garcia's recent "fried chicken" comments.

"No, we didn't discuss anything," Woods curtly offered. "[Sergio] just came up and said hi, and that was it."

When Woods was asked if Garcia had apologized in person, he gave a short, "No," before stating, "It's already done. We've already gone through it all. It's time for the U.S. Open and we tee it up in two days."

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Mother Nature must hate practice. 

The Monday practice sessions at Merion Golf Club for the 2013 U.S. Open were wet. All wet. The early sessions were delayed by rain, and while the middle of the day saw moderate and relatively playable conditions around Merion, the rains began to swamp the course again by midafternoon. 

Maybe Mother Nature hates golf altogether. At least it's pretty clear she's opposed to our national championship being held outside Philadelphia. That's the only logical explanation for all this rain.

All this rain.

The area was slammed with more than four inches of rain last weekend, and while initial reports for this week had things drying up in time for the tournament on Thursday, even that has changed for the worse.

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Julius Erving was more than just a great basketball player. The man was a cultural icon...and also, a doctor! Well, not a doctor, but definitely "The Doctor," which is one of the great nicknames in the history of American sports. 

The Doctor, an NBA TV documentary on Erving, debuts Monday, June 10, at 9 p.m. The film is a fantastic look at Dr. J's life, career and impact on basketball and pop culture. The footage and interviews from Rucker Park in New York provided the most interesting aspects of the film.

There have been a lot of legendary stories to come out of Rucker Park—and certainly some legendary players—but none may be more legendary than the genesis of the nickname "Dr. J."

Erving and his longtime friend, Leon Saunders, used to play basketball together in high school. Erving was tired of his friend being a stickler for the rules, so he came up with a derisive nickname for Saunders.

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"The things that happen to you during the course of your life become your body of work," a world-famous Julius Erving explained to a group of assembled media on Wednesday night, "and the culmination of all those things—whether something happened in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 60s, 70s—all those things are going to comprise the dash between the day you were born and the day you die." 

I shook Dr. J's hand afterward, and it made me feel like a little kid again. Sure, part of that feeling came because shaking Doc's hand was the dream of every kid who grew up going to the Spectrum to see the Sixers play, but more because the man has gigantic hands. It was like a bear claw shaking the leaf of a tree. 

If the bear was 63 years old and could still dunk.

On Monday, June 10, NBA TV will present The Doctor, a biographical look at the life and career of Julius Erving. Prior to the release of the film, NBA TV had an advanced screening in Philadelphia on Wednesday night. 

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This is a confusing time in baseball's history. ESPN's Outside the Lines is reporting that Major League Baseball is prepared to suspend roughly 20 players for their alleged association with Miami-based "wellness" guru Tony Bosch and his now-defunct business Biogenesis. Some of the players, including Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, could each face a 100-game suspension—some without ever failing a test.

This story gets confusing, certainly, but one thing is very clear: MLB is willing to cut a deal with a drug seller who allegedly supplied its biggest stars with performance-enhancing substances in order to catch and suspend the very stars the drug seller was in business to supply.

In other words, when the money ran dry and Tony Bosch had nowhere else to go, MLB was happy to lend a helping hand. Per ESPN.com:

Forget for a second the issue of whether or not these 20 players cheated; I've long been under the assumption that nearly every player in baseball is on something, and some are just stupid enough to get caught. The ESPN report clearly indicates that MLB investigators are willing to work out a deal with Bosch in an effort to further their investigation.

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It used to be so easy to root against LeBron James, yet as the Miami Heat prepare to host a pivotal Game 7 with the Indiana Pacers with a trip to the NBA Finals at stake, it's becoming harder and harder not to root for him.

Rooting for James feels a bit odd. Sure, the guy was always talented, but he carried himself with such an unrelenting swagger and misguided sense of invulnerability that no matter how great he was on the court, it was nearly impossible for the casual NBA fan to actually want to see him win. 

When LeBron was taking the Cleveland Cavaliers deep into the playoffs every year, we marveled at his ability to carry an entire team—hell, a city—on his back. LeBron had earned the basketball world's respect, but there was still a fundamental difference between respecting a guy's game and actively rooting for him to win.

As he got closer and closer to the title in Cleveland, some fans and media relished the fact that LeBron didn't have the ability to close out games like many greats to come before him. As great as he was, LeBron wasn't clutch enough to be a champion. The narrative of LeBron's inability to rise to the occasion, however misguided, became his career-defining characteristic.