As you know by now, Merion Golf Club is longer than it was when David Graham won the last U.S. Open contested here. Much of that length rears its head during the closing five holes – upon which a champion (or playoff contestants) will be determined today.
This last handful of holes comes into play after a stretch of seven short but creative holes, changing the feel of the round. Graeme McDowell, 2010 U.S. Open champion, says of this stretch, "I can't think of a tougher finish at a U.S. Open."
Saturday, Justin Rose spoke to the grind they create.
"If you hit one bad shot on any of those four holes, it generally leads to a bogey," Rose said. "They're very unforgiving from that point of view. So you've just got to play a clean, hit a clean 10 shots or nine shots right in regulation: two good shots on 14, two good shots on 15, two on 16, one on 17, and two on 18.
"If you don't do that, you are really struggling for par."
As with earlier holes on the course, there's also some of the most confounding ground ...
Easy, like Sunday morning.
That's how No. 17 played for Shawn Stefani, even if the rest of the week was a much tougher test at Merion Golf Club.
Stefani pulled his 4-iron tee shot on the long par-3 and it landed left of the green – but bounded onto the putting surface, slowly rolled to the lower shelf toward the pin on the right side, and kept going until it fell into the cup, trapped between the lip and the pin.
"I was actually trying to hit the left side of the green and cut it," Stefani said. "And then I kind of pulled it. I pulled it about five yards. And the wind was kind of down off the left and it really didn't help at all. It didn't move it to the right.
"And honestly I think I've seen a bunch of balls that week kind of not kick to the right and I was really surprised to see the ball kick to the right. And then once it did kick, it kept rolling and I was like, well this could be good. And the fans stood up and then it kept getting closer and ...
A sunny Saturday got the U.S. Open back on track, the final round set to be the first unencumbered by delays or by teeing off both nines.
But will that plan hold up?
Play began Sunday under fine conditions when Robert Karlsson teed off at 8:44 a.m. But the clouds that have been expected to roll in now carry a higher chance of rain than thought last night.
Forecasts range from a 40 percent chance of rain by weather.com to 60 percent by wunderground.com – with the most likely time around 4 p.m. by most accounts.
Keep in mind, leader Phil Mickelson isn't set to tee off until 3:20 p.m. with playing partner Hunter Mahan in the day's final group.
With sunset at 8:32 p.m., that leaves little room for error to avoid a Monday finish on a Merion East Course where play has not always been quick amid narrow fairways, thick rough and undulating greens – not to mention five long finishing holes that have played well above par.
Blame a 2-iron for Luke Donald’s car crash on 17 and train wreck on 18.
Holding a one-shot lead in the U.S. Open, Donald bogeyed the par-3 17th, playing 253 yards, then double bogeyed the par-4 18th, which measures a stout 521 yards.
On each hole, Donald flared a 2-iron shot to the right, leaving his ball in a bunker at 17 and in heavy, thick, unassailable rough at 18. He needed three more shots on 17, four more on 18.
Donald explained 17: “I just went at it too hard from the top, and that’s my kind of miss at the moment, to the right.”
What followed was even worse: “The rough has been tough this week, but I’ve never seen a lie like that (on 18). It was unfortunate. I didn’t deserve much better. I shouldn’t have been over there. But if I had a decent lie, I probably would have had a (short) putt for four.”
On 17, Donald needed to carry a ridge at 240 yards. On 18, his carry distance was 229 yards to the middle of the green. Both these yardage figures came from Donald himself.
“With both ...
It's Phil Mickelson in the lead and Hunter Mahan nipping at his heels. Most of the field Saturday found Merion just as difficult as the first two days. But some, notably Mahan, Charl Schwartzel, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Paul Lawrie and Lee Westwood, got the best of Merion.
• • •
SERGIO McAVOY? Sergio Garcia showed off his best Tin Cup moment on the 15th hole in the third round of the U.S. Open.
It was just a month ago that Garcia, with a chance to win his second Players Championship, rinsed a sleeve on the last two holes at TPC Sawgrass.-That included two in the water at the 17th hole, recording a quadruple bogey 7.
This time it wasn't a pond, but Golf House Road that borders the 411-yard, par-4 hole – which is out-of-bounds all down the left side.
Garcia launched his driver down the left side, the first of three drives that would find the road before he finally found the golf course on his seventh shot.
The 10 that Garcia recorded didn't seem to bother him when he finished his round.
"Well what does that say about my game that I can make a 10 ...
It was a bountiful day for quotes at the U.S. Open. Even the golfers who didn’t play well in the third round seemed to be talkative.
So here is the latest installment of major championship awards:
• The let’s go award: To the front-running Phil Mickelson, who said, “Let’s go. I can’t wait to get back out playing. I feel really good about my ballstriking. I feel good on the greens, and I think that it’s going to take an under-par round tomorrow.”
• In defense of Luke Donald: “Those last two holes are the hardest holes on the course probably,” said Hunter Mahan, who went bogey-bogey, one better than Donald’s bogey-double bogey finish.
• Say it ain’t so, Sergio: After Sergio Garcia hit three balls out of bounds off the 15th tee, Ian Poulter was asked if this was the most intimidating golf hole in the world. “We play a lot tougher tee shots than that around the world,” Poulter responded. Ouch!
• The military golf award: Rory McIlroy, who shot 75, said plainly, “I guess I was missing my woods right and my irons left.”
• The Bob Hope and Bing Crosby impersonation award: Tiger ...
U.S. Open Golf, a fundamentally different game than pros play week-in and week-out on the PGA Tour, has rules, and Phil Mickelson knows them as well as anyone.
Rule 1: You have to hit the fairways.
Rule 2: You must hit the greens,
Rule 3: If you don't follow Rule 2, you've got to miss in a spot where you have a chance to recover.
Rule 4: You have to summon the nerve to hit a 6-foot par putt with enough conviction to make it hold its line, even though missing would result in an 8-foot comebacker for bogey.
For two days, Mickelson played by the rules and was rewarded with a share of the lead at the U.S. Open at Merion. But as the frat boys cheered "Phil! Phil! Phil" and the sun-soaked, beer-loving crowds cheered him Saturday afternoon, Mickelson seemingly developed amnesia.
Mickelson blocked his tee shot on the 556-yard par-5 second into the left rough and scrambled to save par. He dropped his tee shot to the 245-yard par-3 third hole short and into the rough, then hit his pitch shot too far and missed a downhill 6-foot par putt. He overshot the ...
Unlike the first two days, there were no apparent problems with his left arm. No, the only grimacing Tiger Woods did in the U.S. Open third round was because of his substandard golf shots and his messy scorecard, not because of physical pain.
If Saturday is indeed moving day, then the world’s No. 1 golfer got rid of the furniture and moved out. Remarkably, after making his lone birdie on the opening hole, Woods shot a 6-over-par 76 at Merion. He started the day four shots off the lead and, after seven bogeys, ended it 10 behind rival Phil Mickelson.
Woods, of course, arrived in suburban Philadelphia hungry to win his first major championship in five years. He arrived, too, with high hopes, having won four of his seven PGA Tour stroke-play starts of the year. And he remained optimistic after a 73-70 start, even though he had three-putted twice and missed some other putts inside 10 feet on opening day.
But by Saturday night he was out of it and disappointed.
“It is certainly frustrating because I certainly was feeling like I was playing well this week, and I just didn’t make the putts I need ...
Tiger Woods, on chances to be aggressive:
There's some difficult pins out there. A couple of them are on ridges or are very close, you got to really position your shots well. If you leave yourself in the correct spots, you can be pretty aggressive with some putts and they're not that fast uphill into the grain. So if you put yourself in a correct spot, you can really take a pretty good run at it and be aggressive. But if you put the ball in the wrong spots, yeah, it's tough to make putts.
• • •
Woods, on whether this Open setup is the most penal he's played:
Most definitely. Because of the pins, I think. The long holes are playing really long and short holes obviously are short, but the thing is that the pins out there, what they're giving us out there are really tough.
Look at what they did at 7 and 8 today. Couple short holes, but 7's one step and a half over the top of the ridge. And 8's on the down slope a little bit. And it's a pretty steep slope. So they got some really ...
Tiger Woods birdied his opening hole Saturday at the U.S. Open, but seven bogeys after that virtually ended his championship hopes.
Woods shot 6-over 76 to move to 9 over heading into Sunday's final round at Merion.
Phil Mickelson's title hopes, though, are alive and well, as Lefty leads at 1 under after carding an even-par 70. He'll play in the final group Sunday alongside Hunter Mahan, who is among three players at even par. Steve Stricker and Charl Schwartzel are the other two players who are one shot back.
A trio of players chasing their first major title are 1 over: Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Billy Horschel.
It should be an exciting final round at Merion, one that comes after a thrilling third round.
See how it all unfolded Saturday at Merion!
• • •
Update No. 28: 8:07 p.m. EDT
The par-4 18th continues to wreak havoc. Luke Donald double-bogeys the hole to finish with a 1-over 71. He'll enter Sunday at 1 over. Also, Phil Mickelson bogeyed the hole after leaving a 15-footer for par just short. Mickelson is the only player under par (1 under) through 54 holes after a third-round ...
Tiger Woods returned to Merion early Friday morning to wrap up a disappointing opening round, but continued to show mediocre form. Saturday he'll try to heal up after playing 24 holes in 1 over par and close in on the leaders.
When darkness brought an end to play Friday, Woods was four back of co-leaders Billy Horschel and Phil Mickelson.
Presumably getting some rest before his second round, unlike Wednesday night when he flew across the country for his Thursday morning tee time, Mickelson needed all 18 holes to card his only birdie of the day at the last. Horschel, on the other hand, shot a 67 that was the best scorecard turned in for the round Friday.
Five players are T-2 at even par: Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Steve Stricker all finished their rounds, while Cheng-Tsung Pan and Ian Poulter have nine and four holes to play, respectively.
Several big names are in danger of missing the cut, which is projected at 8 over.
Recap the top developments during the second day of U.S. Open play at Merion – and scroll down for our previous coverage.
• • •
Update No. 29: 8:41 p.m. EDT
Justin Rose makes ...
Well, we missed Bobby Jones and the Grand Slam by 83 years. Trevino and Nicklaus battled 42 years ago. It’s been 32 years since David Graham won the U.S. Open.
All of that here at Merion Golf Club.
However, modern times has its attractions. There is Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.
And there is – don’t laugh – the worst putter in golf.
“Drive for show and putt for dough” has never had a better representative than Nicolas Colsaerts. He is called the Belgium Bomber, although Wide Right might be a more suitable nickname.
Colsaerts, a regular on the PGA European Tour, joined the PGA Tour this year and is averaging 304.2 yards off the tee – third in driving distance, just a fraction behind leader Luke List (304.8) and second-place Dustin Johnson (304.7).
Meanwhile, Colsaerts is the worst putter on the Tour among golfers who have enough tournament appearances to be ranked. In the strokes gained/putting category, 183 golfers are listed, and Colsaerts is 183rd.
To repeat, he is the worst putter on the PGA Tour. Imagine ordering a box of business cards with your name along with a slogan underneath: The ...
No one is bringing Merion Golf Club to its knees – yet – but Billy Horschel put on a shot-making clinic the likes of which have rarely been seen at a U.S. Open. He hit all 18 greens in regulation, shades of David Graham’s memorable performance that won him the title here in 1981. Yet neither Horschel nor his caddie seemed to have any idea what he had achieved.
“I didn’t know I hit every green until I walked off 18,” he said. “It’s a cool thing.”
So cool that when he drained an 18-foot putt for a rare birdie on the last it added up to 3-under 67, the low round of the day. It made him the 36-hole clubhouse leader at a total of 1-under 139.
Hitting 18 greens in regulation in a round is so rare that it hasn’t been done in a U.S. Open in more than 20 years. It’s just the latest highlight for the 26-year-old Horschel, who is finally hitting his stride. An injury to his left wrist sidelined his rookie campaign; when he recovered, he struggled to keep his Tour card. Horschel is in the midst of a ...
Tiger Woods has won a U.S. Open on a broken leg. Now he’s trying to win one with a wounded arm.
For the second day in a row, Woods grimaced in pain after several shots, his left arm clearly bothering him at times. Still, he pieced together a nice 70 for a 3-over-par 143 and said he likes his chances of winning his first major championship in five years.
Woods felt some pain in an arm he said he injured while hitting a shot when winning The Players in early May. That is curious because, based on his lack of reacting, it didn’t seem to bother him there or when he tied for 65th at the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago.
The Open at Merion has been something else from the start. He grimaced hitting a shot out of rough on his first hole Thursday. In Friday’s second round, among other times, he winced after laying up from deep rough en route to a tap-in birdie on the par-5 second. After teeing off with an iron on the short par-4 eighth, he shook his left arm while in obvious discomfort. His approach from the rough on ...
Hi, Dr. Slice here. After a Rocky-inspired training meal that included a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, a soft pretzel, an Italian ice and some German butter cake, it’s time to clean the crumbs off my computer and distribute noteworthy awards from the first and second rounds of the 113th U.S. Open.
• No-sleep, no-sweat: Phil Mickelson easily wins this award for his double cross-country journey from Philadelphia to southern California and back to Philly. Mickelson’s plane landed here at 4:15 a.m. Thursday. He arrived at the club at 5:35. He began play from the 11th tee at 7:11. Oh yes – he also took the first-round lead with a 3-under-par 67.
• The rescue-me award: Mickelson’s caddie, Jim Mackay, gave his player some intelligent advice with two holes remaining in the opening round. After Mickelson said he was about to “hit the wall,” Mackay advised him to disassociate his thoughts from golf. Mickelson finished birdie-par.
• The professional preparation award: “I didn’t need any course prep,” Mickelson said. “I knew how it was going to play with all four different winds. I knew what clubs I was going to hit off each tee. All that stuff ...