Torrential downpours marred the first-round action at the 2013 U.S. Open on Thursday, as play was suspended due to darkness with about half of the field yet to complete their rounds.
Two delays, one lengthy in the morning and another shorter version in the late afternoon, left players and officials scrambling to get as much of Round 1 in as possible. All told, there are 78 players who will have to finish up their round early Friday morning.
The PGA's official Twitter feed announced the decision to have players head back to the clubhouse for the evening:
Play has been suspended due to darkness. Round 1 resumes early in the morn!— PGA.COM (@PGA_com) June 14, 2013
As noted by Ryan Lavner of Golf Channel, play will continue at 7:15 a.m. (Eastern) on Friday morning:
The first round of the #USOpen will resume at 7:15 a.m. ET Friday.— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) June 14, 2013
Among those players still with holes to play is Luke Donald, whose score of four-under on the day paces the field. The 35-year-old Englishman toughed out the waiting periods and treacherous conditions—which saw late-afternoon rounds be pushed back by more than three hours—and played Merion Golf Club's East Course beautifully.
Here is a look at the entire first-round leaderboard from when play was suspended:
Showing poise and accuracy down the fairway—a major key on this course—Donald carded five birdies against one bogey, including three straight red scores to finish off his day. Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel noted how Donald's biggest strength, his wedge play, is paying massive dividends for his score:
Luke Donald is one of the world's best wedge players. Merion is one of the world's best wedge courses. It's all making sense now.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) June 14, 2013
Donald, who is yet to win on the PGA Tour this season, was on very few pundits' radars coming into this week. Though he always had the accuracy to compete in a relatively short course where accuracy is paramount—Merion is only 6,996 yards in length—the results had simply not been there this year.
Donald spoke after his round and noted how he felt "in control" of his game, per the U.S. Open's Twitter feed:
Taking the clubhouse lead one stroke behind Donald is Phil Mickelson, whose three-under score of 67 was achieved during the most treacherous conditions early in the day. Mickelson survived the three-plus hour rain delay that pelted southeastern Pennsylvania early Thursday morning, leaving Lefty to wait in the middle of his round.
But the wait did not hurt Mickelson's momentum one iota. He carded four birdies against just one bogey, avoiding the famous Lefty pitfalls that have dogged him at the U.S. Open in the past. After his round, ESPN's Rick Reilly noted that Mickelson made it a point to tell USGA officials how much he loved the Merion course:
When he turned from 18 to 1, Phil Mickelson saw USGA czar Mike Davis and told him, "This is my favorite Open setup ever." #USOpen— Rick Reilly (@ReillyRick) June 13, 2013
Mickelson, he of five second-place finishes at the U.S. Open, is looking to finally get the biggest remaining monkey off his back. Should history repeat itself this week, Mickelson is in luck. Shane Bacon of Yahoo! Sports noted that exactly half of Lefty's four major championship wins have come after an opening-round 67:
Good news for Phil Mickelson - in two of his four major wins he's opened with a round of 67, his score today at Merion.— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) June 13, 2013
Mickelson is joined by Masters champion Adam Scott, whose three-under score through 11 holes puts him just one stroke off Donald's pace. Paired with Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods for the first two rounds, it was a little jarring (albeit not surprising) to see someone who just slipped on the green jacket go under the radar.
Bacon—taking quite the leap of faith, if you ask me—thinks that Scott fella might be worth watching in between giving puppy dog eyes at Rory and Tiger:
This guy playing with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy has some game. I'm going to keep my eye on him going forward.— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) June 13, 2013
Alex Myers of Golf Digest was more struck by the sheer power in Scott's swing. The 32-year-old Australian wowed the crowd by taking an iron out of his bag and nearly holing his shot on the lengthy par-three third hole:
Two names you won't see on the leaderboard thus far are Scott's playing partners, McIlroy and Woods. The world's top two ranked golfers battled their way through challenging, yet wholly different Thursday rounds.
Woods, looking to win his first major in five years this weekend, played one of the more inconsistent rounds of his entire year. Skating his way through 11 holes at two-over par and in a tie for 51st place, Woods was unable to find his rhythm throughout.
Starting his day with two bogeys (juxtaposed with a birdie) in the first three holes, it was apparent from the first hole that Woods wasn't in his best form. ESPN Stats & Information had a jarring statistic that doesn't bode well for Woods going forward:
This is 3rd time Tiger Woods has made bogey or worse in 2 of first 3 holes at U.S. Open. The other two resulted in a cut and a withdraw.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 13, 2013
Another thing to note on Friday is the status of Woods' wrist. He noticeably grimaced a few times throughout the round after being injured early on. Yahoo!'s Shane Bacon had a vine of the world's top-ranked golfer obviously in pain after an approach shot:
Watch Tiger grimace after hitting this shot from the rough. https://t.co/DyQFPqDWUo— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) June 13, 2013
McIlroy's even-par round thus far was less eventful. He carded two bogeys against the same amount of red scores, playing a relatively controlled pace despite the tough conditions. On the bright side, at least Tiger didn't give him any ear flicks during the round (that we know of):
As a rule, the U.S. Open is a four-day event that necessitates survival over all else. Avoiding meltdowns, both mental and physical, is the key to staying in contention throughout the week. One slightly over-par score isn't going to kill you if your game normalizes over the weekend, nor is one great opening round going to buoy your score if you can't keep it up.
The U.S. Open by design is built on treachery. It's built on testing the best players in the world, and that was certainly the case on Thursday. The greens were entirely unpredictable, the rough almost unplayable and the pin placements Sunday-worthy at any other tournament.
Over the next three rounds, we'll see if Mickelson can finally triumph at the U.S. Open. We'll figure out just how much Tiger's wrist is bothering him and if it will keep him out of contention. And, at some point, we'll figure out that Adam Scott is that "other guy" playing with Woods and McIlroy. With Thursday leaving a ton of questions lingering for Round 2, there will be no shortage of reasons to watch.
Let's just hope the weather holds up so we actually get a chance.
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