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Thursday, June 13, 2013

U.S. Open: Major moments await Merion

Mother Nature has already picked sides for the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club outside of Philadelphia and it’s not favoring the 6,996 yard Ardmore, Pa. course. She made her opening statement on Saturday dumping 31/2 inches of rain with more coming on Monday and is still expected to make more saturation during the first round on Thursday dropping rain drop, after rain drop. The pre-tourney weekend was so bad; the 11th hole was ruled off limits for practice rounds that were twice suspended. More than an inch of water came down to start the week and with more in the forecast, a soft golf course with low scores is in the making. Players who are on their games will be rewarded with a bucket full of birdie attempts, in an Open where par-4’s, rule the week. The main defense Merion still possesses however is a flush rough so thick off the fairways, Bigfoot would be proud! Reigning Open Champion Ernie Els stated, “You start missing some shots, the rough is as bad as I’ve ever seen it. If you hit it in the rough here, you’re just advancing it 120 yards, 140 yards, most of the time. That’s still very penal.” One group that should get to stand back and take mental notes on how to deal with Thursday’s anticipated precipitation, is the group all eyes will be on in the opening round. Tiger Woods, of course the World’s top ranked player, Masters Champion Adam Scott, ranked No. 3 in the world and Rory McIlroy the world’s No. 2 player are all paired together for Thursday and Friday’s action teeing off at 1:14 Eastern time, on the East Course. This will give them a slight advantage to gauge the soggy conditions and adjust accordingly in their warm-ups. For Scott, with his first major title now under his belt, the first two rounds won’t be his first super-pairing in a major. In 2008, Scott played with Woods and Phil Mickelson at Torrey Pines in the opening rounds of the U.S. Open. He was also ranked third in the world at the time. He reminisced about the pressure he faced on that Thursday and Friday, which happened to be the last major title Woods has won. “I think anyone would have felt like the third wheel that week. Obviously Tiger and Phil, it was so much to talk about with it being Phil’s hometown and Tiger dominating at Torrey for years and it was a great pairing. It was an experience that I’ll never forget. I’ve never seen that many people on a Thursday morning first tee. It was a great atmosphere”, he told ESPN.com. While Tiger is still on the hunt for that first win since his dramatic Torrey Pines victory virtually on one-leg due to a torn ACL, dealing with the Sergio Garcia controversy is something he plans on avoiding altogether. Garcia approached Woods on the driving range Monday and the two shook hands but a ‘hi’ from the Spaniard was all that was exchanged between the two players. Some believed Garcia attempted to set up another time to speak with Woods but that wasn’t the case. “No, we didn’t discuss anything. He just came up and ‘Hi’ and that was it”, Woods told a news conference crowd on Tuesday. Asked if Garcia apologized, Woods said: “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. Garcia was jokingly asked on May 21 if he would have dinner with Woods this week at the U.S. Open after their controversy from the third round of the Players Championship. In a very bad attempt at humor, Sergio replied: “We’ll have him round every night. We will serve fried chicken.” Tiger of course did not take kindly to the remarks but has dropped the incident to focus on a possible fourth U.S. Open victory. Tiger however is coming off one of the worst performances of his professional career, where he tied for 65th at the Memorial two weeks ago, a tourney he’d won five times. But once again you have to give Tiger an edge because he did come to Merion two weeks ago before the Memorial and played in the rain to help him prepare for this week. “When I came up on Tuesday of Memorial, it was rainy, the ball wasn’t flying very far and I’m hitting the ball in the same spots now, because obviously it’s rainy and soft,” he said.

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