Notes: Westwood's wicker, Stanley's strategy, more
ARDMORE, Pa. The first round finally finished in colder, wetter and windier conditions than Thursday when the round began.
Few finished well, dropping shots and wondering what Merion had in store for them as they would have to go right back out.
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A TISKET, A TASKET: After his even-par 70, Lee Westwood was still not thrilled with the wicker baskets that adorn the tops of the pins at Merion.
During Thursday’s first round, the Englishman hit the wicker at No. 12 with his third shot and saw his ball careening down the fairway. Instead of saving par, he made a double-bogey six.
“Yeah, well I did hit it,” Westwood said about the wicker basket after he completed his round Friday morning. “But Peter Dawson (The R&A Chief Executive) has reassured me that for the Open Championship we'll be going back to flags like a normal tournament.”
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THUNDER FROM DOWN UNDER: Australian John Senden is playing in his fifth U.S. Open. In his four previous appearances, he missed the cut in his first two, finished T-30 in 2011 at Congressional and T-10 last year at Olympic.
Now through the first round, Senden is T-7 after a first round of even par, tying his second-best score in the championship.
“It's a patience golf course,” Senden said between his first and second rounds. "The golf course was playing a different direction of wind today. The golf course is much longer today, on most shots, because of the cool conditions. On some holes, I think, good shots you get rewarded. But otherwise you're scrambling. I managed it well today.”
Senden had made the trip to Merion before, playing in October. He played two full rounds leading up to the week, then played 45 holes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before teeing it up Thursday.
“I think that you've really got to pick your lines well,” Senden said of the difficulty of playing Merion. “You've got to do your homework on the practice days. There's a lot of holes where you can – you've got to pick trees rather than seeing the fairways, especially on holes like 9 where you can't see the bottom of the fairway. You have to really pick your points past the fairway to get the right lines, so that was important.”
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HANGING ON: Playing in his fourth U.S. Open, Kyle Stanley has had little success with only a 53rd in 2009 to show for his efforts.
At a point in the first round it looked like Stanley was going to change all of that. He birdied early and was 2-under through 13 holes. But the final stretch cost Stanley with a bogey at the 15th and double at the 16th to take a 2-under round and turn it into a 1-over 71.
“Really the only times I kind of got in trouble were off the tee,” Stanley said. “It's so important to get the ball in the fairway. If you do that you can make birdies. But, didn't hit many fairways in the first round but scrambled pretty good, so I'll take 1 over. But, might switch around some tee clubs this afternoon.”
With the course playing longer and Stanley feeling comfortable with his driver, he thought he might use it more in the second round.
On the 16th hole, Stanley was lulled into thinking the lie was good enough, a familiar trait at Merion, and it cost him dearly.
“It was kind of one of those lies where I thought I could get the club behind the ball but there was just a lot of stuff in front of it,” Stanley said. “It's one of those ones if you catch it right, it comes out OK; if you don't, it doesn't. Pretty good two‑putt for a 6.”
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THE BIG EASY: It's Ernie Els' 21st U.S. Open and he has seen it all, so Merion and its tricks were not a surprise to the big South African – which is why he made a appearance on the leaderboard in the first round, but finished with a 1-over 71.
Suggesting the weather and conditions in the morning Friday were similar to some Open Championships versus U.S. Opens, Els was pleases with his round to a point.
“I made some good saves on the last two, but I hit two really poor iron shots,” Els said. “On 16 I only had a 9‑iron, and 15 I kind of mis‑clubbed myself. So those two bogeys sting a little bit. Would have been great to get it in red. But I've got to be fortunate; I'm happy with 1‑over, especially 17 and 18 are just virtually impossible. But we managed some pars there.”
Like Tiger Woods, Els had a little twinge in his wrist. He said it has been around for a while, but the thickness of the rough might have aggravated it a little.
“I don't think it's from this week, but if I go in there now I'll really feel it,” Els said of his injury to his left hand. “But yeah, if you hit it wrong, if you hit it into the grain when it's thick like this, if you get it into the grain the club doesn't go through.”
Els wil have little time for treatment, scheduled to go right back out for his second round.
“Listen, we got a little screwed on this draw,” Els said. “This is not the favorable side of the draw, but it is what it is. We go out there – I feel like I'm up for it this afternoon.
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SHORT SHOTS: Justin Hicks eagle, two on the par 4, eighth hole was a 9-iron from 125 yards. . . . Amateur Gavin Hall holed out from the fairway at No. 8 for an eagle. . . . Steve Flesch shared a recollection of Merion via his Twitter account, @Steve_Flesch: "My only visit to Merion, I got reprimanded for changing my shoes at my car. Not proper! I said "I play the Nike Tour, that's how we do it"." . . . Ian Poulter offered a little insight to how players and caddies are getting their yardages this week, when he posted twice on his Twitter account, @IanJamesPoulter: "The sprinkler heads have no numbers on them this week so it's been difficult 1 finding them and 2 working out what the yardage is from them." Then, "The caddies marked a lot of the sprinkler heads with the correct yardage but they could do all of them. Fairway sprinklers done. Hit them"
– Golfweek staff contributed.