5 Things: First round on hold; amateurs make noise
ARDMORE, Pa. – Phil Mickelson took control early at the U.S. Open, firing a 3-under 67 in the morning wave, only to see Luke Donald move to 4 under through 13 holes before play was suspended because of darkness Thursday.
Here are 5 Things to take away or look forward to after Thursday at the U.S. Open:
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1. PRESSING THE RESTART BUTTON: No one from the afternoon groups finished their rounds Thursday evening, all leaving the course due to darkness with the instruction to return to their spot on the course for a 7:15 a.m. restart.
PHOTOS: U.S. Open at Merion (Thursday)
Check out photos from the first round of the U.S. Open Thursday at Merion.
These groups were scheduled for Friday's morning rounds initially, so they are all facing 36-hole days. That could potentially leave most of Thursday morning's wave waiting until late afternoon to tee off – and this all but guarantees a Saturday finish to determine the cut.
The cut will only be the top 60, not those within 10 shots of the lead.
The forecast Friday morning calls for a 30 percent chance of showers – with no thunderstorms – that could last until about 1 p.m., when forecasters foresee partly cloudy skies. Play was stopped twice Thursday because of thunderstorms, the first time for more than three hours starting at 8:34 a.m. and the second for about 45 minutes at 6:10 p.m.
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2. AMATEUR HOUR: The handful of amateurs playing in the morning wave created plenty of buzz, with Cheng-Tsung Pan and Kevin Phelan both spending significant time near the top of the leaderboard.
Phelan had the best round with a 1-over 71, picking up a bogey at the par-3 9th to fall back to T-50. The top 60 players will make the cut. He was steady all day, picking up 14 pars, three bogeys and two birdies. This is Phelan's second trip to a U.S. Open, also qualifying in 2010 at Pebble Beach.
"I learned more in that week (at Pebble) than the rest of my golfing career combined," said Phelan, a University of North Florida product. "It was a huge help today when I just wanted to stay patient. When I made a couple of mistakes, my experience of Pebble served me well. I went back to the patience."
Pan held a share of the lead early after a birdie at the par-4 14th hole to move to 2 under, but handed those shots back with bogeys at Nos. 16-17 to make his turn at even. He'd get back into the red with a birdie at No. 1, but a trio of bogeys at Nos. 4-6 sent him to a 2-over 72.
"Yeah, definitely it's easier when it's soft. Your iron shot, you can attack the pins," said Pan. "It's easier when it's soft from rain. But you still have to hit fairway. You've got to hit a really good shot always."
Cal's Michael Kim, the 2013 Haskins Award and Jack Nicklaus Award winner, picked up a double-bogey 7 at the par-5 2nd, but recovered with four birdies during his final 16 holes in a 3-over 73.
"I didn't really feel too nervous out there, other than maybe a couple moments," said Kim. "And I just tried to have fun. Tried not to expect too much. And I felt pretty good the entire day."
Cory McElyea, the only other amateur in the morning, shot 81. In the afternoon wave, soon-to-be pro Chris Williams, the world's top-ranked amateur, is 1 under through 10 holes to stand T-7, as is 18-year-old Gavin Hall through five holes. Meanwhile, Cal teammates Max Homa (through 5) and Michael Weaver (through 10) are 2 over.
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3. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING? The wet conditions had many thinking that golf's best might tear up the course. Not so fast.
There were only two red numbers posted in the morning, Phil Mickelson at 67 and Nicolas Colsaerts at 69.
The day's bogeys (494) nearly doubled the number of birdies (270).
"I think that anybody in that commentary box has never given this golf course enough respect. They were joking around laughing at 63s and 62s and just look at the board," said Ian Poulter, who started his round with three birdies only to sputter the rest of the way in a 1-over 71. "I mean, they need to respect this golf course. It's brutal. The long holes are severely long. Yes, we're making birdies on those short holes, but look what we have to contend with out there on those long holes. It's not easy.
"The rough's thick and you get into some of those greens, they're still running 13 (on the Stimpmeter); even though we have had a downpour today, it's easy to let the ball get away from you."
Here's a look at the course statistics when play was stopped for a second time Thursday:
• Hardest hole: The par-4 5th, playing at 4.7719, with 56 bogeys and 17 double bogeys.
• Easiest hole: The par-4 10th – all 310 yards of it – is playing at 3.7188, with two eagles and 35 birdies. Marcel Siem drove the green and buried a 30-footer for eagle.
• Birdie bonanza: The par-3 13th hole had 43 birdies, with John Peterson coming within six inches of a hole-in-one. He had a hole-in-one at the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club.
• Tale of two nines: The front nine is playing almost two strokes over par (37.9728), while the back nine is slightly better at 1.828 strokes over par.
• Tough closer: The par-4 18th is registering as the second-toughest hole, including 49 bogeys and 14 doubles.
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4. BY THE NUMBERS: On a course that played only 6,966 yards, the stats are always interesting to look at, as Merion's tight fairways and small greens make it difficult to score. A look at the statistical leaders for those that finished 18 holes on Thursday:
• Birdie leaders: Scott Stallings, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and Ian Poulter (5)
• Eagles: Marcel Siem, Boo Weekley, Sergio Garcia (1)
• Fairways hit: Mike Weir, Jay Don Blake and Hunter Mahan (13/14)
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Keegan Bradley, playing with pal Phil Mickelson, struggled to a 7-over 77 and is T-141 entering his second round. . . . Matt Kuchar, a 20-1 pick by oddsmakers, couldn't get anything going in the first round and posted a 4-over 74, as did Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner. . . . Mike Weir faltered late after grabbing a share of the lead at 2 under, picking up bogeys on four of his final five holes in a 2-over 72. . . . Justin Rose was 4 over through 13 holes, only to pick up birdies on Nos. 6, 7 and 10 coming in to post a 1-over 71.