By Ann Liguori
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Ironies abound here at gorgeous Merion Golf Club during U.S Open week. The weather continues to be the main topic as well as how historic and charming Merion will hold up to today's game and its technological advances.
The forecast calls for heavy rains, possible hail and high winds coming into the area Thursday mid to late afternoon, right smack in the middle of Round 1. The course has already endured over 6 1/2 inches of rain since last Friday, making it soft and sloppy. It has dried up nicely these last two days but more rain is on its way.
During the USGA press conference, the powers that be emphasized several times that the "U.S. Open is not about the score but the celebration about this American club."
Mike Davis, the executive director of the USGA, reiterated that "this is not a normal U.S. Open, but it's really special." He continued "Merion may be short on the score card (in terms of distance for a U.S. Open course, under 7000 yards), but this course has absolutely stood the test of time ... it's a great blend of short and long. ... The challenges these players will face will be the same to what Jones and Hogan and Trevino and Nicklaus faced."
Davis went on to say that the U.S. Open is the most complete test of golf but "it's not all about the difficulty. We want to test every shot, players are going to encounter -- shot-making, the mental game, course management. It's not about the score."
Most of the players have been alluding to the soft conditions during these practice rounds, the shorter layout overall and how their drivers will not see much action this week. There will be a premium on accuracy, staying out of what looks like impossible rough and navigating the tricky greens which will roll around 13-13 1/2 on the Stimpmeter.
Tiger Woods looks calm and relaxed and is smiling freely so far this week. He handled the Sergio controversy like a pro as he encouraged everyone for a few weeks now to "move on," while Sergio looked like he was working overtime here this week to apologize, rehab his image, leaving a personal note in Tiger's locker room and shaking hands with him on the range yesterday.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy played a practice round together on a gorgeous Tuesday morning, preparing to play together with Masters champion Adam Scott when they start round one on Thursday at 1.14 p.m., weather permitting.
Reports have Phil Mickelson flying all the way back to San Diego on Tuesday to attend his daughter's eight grade graduation after attending the Rolex dinner in honor of Arnold Palmer at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Monday evening. He'll have a six- hour flight tonight to get back to Philadelphia from the west coast before teeing it up at 7:11 a.m. Thursday morning with Steve Stricker and Keegan Bradley.
In addition to dealing with weather issues and having to defend their reasons for hosting the U.S. Open at Merion, a throwback in time, and how scores may be well below par, the USGA made another announcement.
They have initiated a campaign geared toward speeding up the pace of play in golf. The new campaign, cleverly titled "While We're Young," is designed to connect with amateur players throughout the country in an effort to pick up the pace of play.
Several stars in the game, including Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Paula Creamer and Butch Harmon, are lending their names to the cause and appear in PSAs dealing with the issue. Glen Nager, the President of the USGA, called slow pace of play "an epidemic" and encourages golfers to visit USGA.org to sign a pledge and learn more about how the golfing community can embrace this issue and help solve it.
Stay tuned for what promises to be an unusual but exciting U.S. Open based on crazy weather patterns, and a classic venue hosting the modern game.
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