15th Annual Gerry Dulac Parkway West Rotary Charity Classic
Monday, July 29th
Sewickley Heights Golf Club
Benefits Robinson Twp. Parks & Recreation Department and Parkway West Rotary Charities
Includes: 18-hole Scramble, Gift, Continental Breakfast, Dinner, Auction.
Register online at parkwaywestrotary.com
Special Editions of the Golf Show
The Golf Show LIVE at Kiawah Island Resort in South Carolina, Monday March 11th, 8-9pm
When he begins his preparation for the U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson might be wise to consider a new wrinkle for his routine:
Schedule an important family event. Preferably with his oldest daughter Amanda.
It seems to bring out the best in Lefty, especially at a U.S. Open.
Mickelson is the U.S. Open's favorite bridesmaid, a runner-up a record five times in 22 career starts. And there he was again on Thursday, jumping into the clubhouse lead of the weather-delayed first round at Merion Golf Club with a 3-under 67 that tied his lowest opening-round score in the tournament.
That he was able to do that, after flying back from San Diego early Thursday morning and arriving at the club less than 90 minutes before his scheduled 7:11 a.m. tee time, makes the performance all the more remarkable.
"This is not that out of the ordinary," Mickelson said. "I do this about six to 10 times a year where I fly back east red-eye, play in some outing and then come home."
But the day of the U.S. Open?
Mickelson might have been in a somnambulant state, but his game surely wasn't. He slept thee hours on the plane, took a one-hour nap before his tee time, then squeezed in another one-hour snooze during a 3 1/2-hour weather delay that began at 8:26 a.m.
But, after a bogey at Merion's first hole, he made four birdies and 13 pars, and, for now, sits atop the leader board while the rest of the first round will be completed today.
"It might be abnormal, but it actually worked out really well," Mickelson said. "I got all my work done on Merion when I was here a week and a half ago. I knew exactly how I wanted to play the golf course ... clubs I was going to be hitting, where I was going to be and the shots I was going to have."
Mickelson flew home to San Diego Monday afternoon so he could attend the eighth-grade graduation of his oldest daughter, Amanda, 14. While he was home, he also was able to practice, something he could not do Monday and Tuesday at Merion because of the rain.
Amanda's graduation began at 6 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday. By 8 p.m., Mickelson was on a private plane, heading back to the Philadelphia area. He went directly to Merion after landing, arriving at the club at 5:48 a.m.
"Four kids spoke and she was one of the ones that was chosen," Mickelson said. "I'm really proud of her. She did a great job and she even quoted Ron Burgundy, so it was funny."
Curiously, Amanda is the same daughter whose impending birth 14 years ago had Mickelson ready to leave the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst at a beeper's notice.
Mickelson finished second that year to the late Payne Stewart, whose dramatic 18-foot par putt at the final hole remains one of the great moments in U.S. Open history. After he made the putt, Stewart placed both hands on Mickelson's cheeks and told him, "You will be a wonderful father."
Four months later, Stewart died in a private-plane accident along with four other people. He was 42 at the time.
Ironically, the 67 Mickelson shot Thursday tied the 67 he shot in the opening round in 1999 at Pinehurst.
Maybe he should deliberately schedule family functions around the U.S. Open.
"She told me that it's fine, stay, it's the U.S. Open, I know how much you care about it," Mickelson said of his daughter. "And I told her that I want to be there. I don't want to miss that. I don't want to miss her speech. I don't want to miss her graduation. She spent nine years at that school. She's worked very hard and I'm very proud of her."
Mickelson's most painful of his five runner-up finishes came in 2006 when he tried to hit a high-risk recovery from the left trees and double-bogeyed the final hole at Winged Foot to hand the trophy to Geoff Oglivy.
Since then, his best finishes in the Open are a tie for second at Bethpage Black in 2009 and a tie for fourth a year later at Pebble Beach.
For a player whose wild, daring style would not always appear suited to a U.S. Open setup, Mickelson has nine top-10 finishes in 22 career starts in the national championship. In that time, he has missed only two cuts, the most recent coming in 2007 at Oakmont when he played with a bad wrist that was injured practicing too many shots from the nasty rough.
"Well if I'm able, and I believe I will, if I'm able to ultimately win a U.S. Open, I would say that it's great," Mickelson said. "I will have had, let's say, a win and five seconds. But if I never get that win, then it would be a bit heart-breaking."
Maybe not as much as missing his daughter's graduation.
ARDMORE, Pa. -- It was going to be so easy. With greens and fairways softened by repeated storms, Merion Golf Club was going to lose its teeth and lay down for the field of the 113th U.S. Open like a puppy waiting for a belly scratch.
Or so everyone thought.
But, even on a day that had two more weather delays and another half-inch of rain dropped on an already soggy layout, Merion sent out a stern warning to anyone who thought the U.S. Open would turn into an outdoor dart contest.
"This was as easy as this golf course is going to play," Phil Mickelson said. "We had very little wind ... we had soft fairways, soft greens and we had no mud balls. We had the best opportunity to score low. And we are all struggling because it's such a penalizing golf course."
Mickelson was one of the few who didn't. After opening with a bogey on one of Merion's short par 4s, he made four birdies and 13 pars the rest of the way to take the clubhouse lead of the rain-delayed first round with a 3-under 67.
England's Luke Donald, a former world No. 1 who is 0 for 39 in major championships, birdied his final three holes and was at 4 under after 13holes when play was suspended. But Donald still has to play Merion's five brutal finishing holes, where anything can happen.
Masters champion Adam Scott birdied his final hole and is at 3 under after 11. He will be among the 78 players who have to complete the first round today. The backlog means the second round will not be completed until Saturday morning, likely pushing completion of the third round into Sunday.
"I think that anybody in that commentary box has never given this golf course enough credit," England's Ian Poulter said. "They were joking around, laughing at [the possibility of] 62s and 63s and just look at the board. They need to respect the course. It's brutal."
Poulter found out the hard way. After starting his round with three consecutive bogeys, he finished at 71 after a round that included three bogeys and a double bogey.
Then there was the travails of Sergio Garcia of Spain. After a tap-in birdie at the 102-yard 13th, his third hole, he hit his tee shots at Nos. 14 and 15 out of bounds, resulting in a double-bogey-6 and a quadruple-bogey-8.
Garcia's tumultuous first round included four birdies, an eagle, two double bogeys and one quadruple, and he finished at 73.
"The U.S. Open doesn't give you much room," Garcia said.
Especially at Merion, where the claustrophobic are not comfortable.
Mickelson and Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium (69) are the only players in the clubhouse under par. There are 14 players under par who still have to complete the first round, including defending champion Webb Simpson (2 under after eight holes), world No. 2 Rory McIlroy (1 under after 11) and England's Lee Westwood (1 under after 12) .
Tiger Woods, the world's top-ranked player who is seeking to end a five-year drought in major championship, is 2 over after 11 holes.
Woods hurt his left wrist hitting his approach from the deep rough at No. 1, then appeared to aggravate the injury several more times playing from the rough at Nos. 5 and 11.
"I looked at the leader board and I said to [Brandt] Snedeker, the course is holding up really well," said England's Justin Rose, who had to birdie three of his final holes to shoot 71. "And I guess it has."
Mickelson has won three Masters and a PGA Championship, and has come close to winning several U.S. Open titles. But he has not played well recently in major tournaments, bettering par in just two of his past 14 rounds.
That all changed at Merion when Mickelson put away the driver, hit 11 fairways and never made a bogey after the opening hole.
Mickelson took the lead by himself with an18-foot birdie at the par-3 ninth, which, typically, would have ended his round. But, because the USGA started the "back nine" at Merion on No. 11, Mickelson had one more hole to go -- and he parred the 303-yard 10th.
Donald made five birdies in his opening 13 holes and ended his day with a flurry, making birdies at Nos. 11, 12 and 13. He was among the few who were not fazed by Merion's difficulty.
"This is the best setup I've seen for a U.S. Open," Mickelson said. "What they did to Merion in the setup was they made the hard holes even harder. And I love that because, if you're playing well, you're going to be able to make pars and you're going to be able to separate yourself from the field by making pars. But on the easy holes they didn't trick them up and take away your birdie opportunities."
ARDMORE, Pa. -- To Tiger Woods, the No. 1 player in the world rankings, it matters little if the Merion Golf Club plays softer and longer or faster and shorter for the 113th U.S. Open that begins today.
He has won the U.S. Open on three separate occasions -- at Pebble Beach, Bethpage Black and Torrey Pines -- and under both sets of conditions. If Woods is to end his five-year drought in major championships, he said he has to adapt to whatever conditions confront him, not focus on how more bad weather could change the personality of a course that hasn't played host to the U.S. Open in 32 years.
"I've won on both conditions," Woods said. "At Torrey, it was dry. Pebble was dry. And Bethpage was soft and slow. Either one, the execution doesn't change. You still got to hit good shots and get the ball in play, especially now with the rough being wet."
And it could be getting wetter. And tougher. And nastier.
More rain is expected today at Merion, which already has been inundated with 5 inches of rain in the past five days, and that will make a course that plays as one of the shortest in recent U.S. Open history -- 6,996 yards -- play much longer.
Conversely, all the moisture has softened the sloping fairways and slowed the slippery greens, making it easier for players to control their ball off the tee and allow them to fire aggressively at the pin.
"It's imperative to get the ball in play so that we can go after some of these flags and make as many birdies as we can," Woods said
Mike Davis, the USGA's executive director and the man responsible for course setup, already has predicted Merion would yield more birdies than people are accustomed to seeing at a U.S. Open. That's because there are five par 4s shorter than 368 yards and a par 3 (No. 13) that is the second-shortest in Open history (115 yards).
Merion is the shortest course to be used for a U.S. Open in nine years, since Shinnecock in 2004. Its character and difficulty, though, are the narrow, sloping fairways, deep sand bunkers and greens that can be smoother and quicker than a porcelain tub.
How it stands up to the power players of today is one of the underlying themes of the championship, and one of the reasons the USGA was hesitant to even bring the tournament back to Merion after a 32-year absence. And that was before the moisture took away some of the course's nastiness.
Two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, who won at a dry and fast Oakmont in 1994, said Merion was "not going to bare its teeth the way it should."
"I expect the scores to be a little lower than what they would be if the course was a little firmer and drier," said world No. 2 Rory McIlroy, who set a tournament scoring record of 16-under par when he won the 2011 U.S. Open at a rain-softened Congressional. "But I don't think you'll see scores like the scores that were shot at Congressional a couple years ago."
Luke Donald, a former No. 1 player in the world who has never won a major in 39 attempts, said he would prefer to see Merion play firm and fast, the way it was designed. He thinks the course plays easier when it's soft.
"I think if it was firm and fast, this course, even despite the length, would hold up just as well as any other U.S. Open course," said Donald, who, along with fellow Englishman Lee Westwood, are the only players to be ranked No. 1 in the world without a major championship. "I think in a way the weather brings in a lot more players to have an opportunity. I think it makes the course a little bit easier. It doesn't play quite as tough."
There is a problem, though, with soft conditions, especially at a U.S. Open -- mud balls.
It wouldn't matter much in a PGA Tour event, where players are usually granted the lift-clean-and-place rule when conditions are soggy and balls are apt to pick up mud. But the USGA does not do that for its championships, and it doesn't appear they are about to change now.
"I think mud balls are a problem. I think they're unfair," said Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, who won the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. "I think golf is designed to be played from a closely mown fairway. If you hit it in that fairway you deserve a great line and a great opportunity to attack the green surface. That's the reward you get for hitting the fairway."