The above screencap looks innoccuous enough. Heck, it’s just all-American hero Phil Mickelson staring at the crotch of a man standing in the middle distance. No biggie, right?
Sifting through the post-Merion chatter, Geoff Shackelford happened upon a strange anecdote from Golf Digest’s Tim Rosaforte. It seems Justin Rose might well have had another reason for gazing affectionately to the skies yesterday evening:
Phil looked ready to end a career of US Open heartbreak, but the leaderboard was crowded with big names desperate to spoil his Father’s Day party. Relive the final round with our blow-by-blow account.
His recent victory at the Zurich Classic notwithstanding, US Open co-leader Billy Horschel will play the role of rank outsider at Merion this afternoon. His relative anonymity, however, isn’t to be confused with a lack of pedigree.
Without wanting to rekindle debate on the hot rules controversy of two months ago (Tiger + illegal drop = mediapocalypse), it’s worth freezing a HD camera in the direction of this column by AP sportswriter Jim Litke.
Wandering Merion in search of an angle Thursday, he happened upon the USGA rules compound, where phone-in queries and accusations are becoming something of a nuisance.
Finally. Someone said it.
Former Masters champ Zach Johnson made the most of his post-round media obligations yesterday evening by taking the USGA to task for transforming Merion from a nuanced test of golf into a predictably gruelling, one-note US Open layout.
62? No way. Let’s be real: That was never going to happen. Those who suggested 62 was a possibility clearly have never played Merion, or don’t realize the USGA always figures out a way to protect par. This was never going to turn into Congressional, Part Deux. Merion is in a different class.
Turned out to 67 would be the low score at the halfway mark at the U.S. Open — one posted by Phil Mickelson on Thursday and the other by Billy Horschel on Friday, who both happen to share the 36-hole lead at one-under. And while 62 didn’t happen, perhaps an even more impressive feat was achieved: hitting 18 greens in regulation.
As a funky little layout with a handful of quaint ideosyncrasies, Merion was never going to go quietly into the US Open wilderness. The first round was heavy on YouTube-ready weirdness, a great deal of it blighting the efforts of one Lee John Westwood.
I’ll save my critique of USGA setups for a little later in the week — I know, the suspense! — but suffice at this point to say, Merion is fulfilling its brief admirably. Mike Davis and his cult of par-worshippers couldn’t have asked for more. Bogeys are far more plentiful than birdies; players are beginning to eye shots with that slightly haunted, nervous look; and with every hour the course stays dry, scores tick steadily skywards. There will be no 62s this week.
Mission accomplished, you might think. But the consensus among media types and players alike is that Merion may well struggle to host another major championship. [Ed. note: Though the word in the member’s pavilion is that the USGA is *begging* the club to return and in fact has already asked.]
All eyes were on Tiger Woods for this morning’s conclusion of the rain-interrupted first round. The world No1 looked to be nursing a wrist injury — possibly sustained as early as the first hole — as yesterday’s action drew to a close, but refused to be drawn on the subject overnight, opting instead to issue a charateristically terse dismissal of the subject through USGA channels.