The toughest competitor for golfers at Merion may be the weather. Then again, maybe it’s the course itself. Dave Kindred from Golf Digest talked with John Feinstein about the U.S. Open.
A week of rain has left the course wet and slow. Low scores, featuring lots of birdies, were predicted. But at the moment, only two players — Phil Mickelson and Nicolas Colsaerts — have shot below par. And neither of has played his second round.
“One of the things he [Mike Davis, the executive director in charge of setting up the course] said was, ‘We can make it difficult,’” said Kindred. “Of course they can make it difficult by bringing in the fairways and letting the rough grow. Everybody’s going to have to hit it straight. And if they don’t hit it straight, they’re in trouble here.”
The pressure of the big stage also tends to push up scores. “If you put ‘U.S. Open’ in front of it, it becomes tough,” said Kindred, paraphrasing pro golfer Ernie Els.
The mediocre scores are even reflected in what initially seemed to be the tournament’s elite grouping: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott. Woods and McIlroy shot an even par in the first round, three strokes off the lead and Scott was five over.
Tiger’s first tee shot, after waiting out a rain delay, landed in the high rough.
“Tiger is not the Tiger we knew in the early 2000s,” said Kindred. “He’s just another player who can win a major. And I think he’s mentally struggling in these things now. As the chances pass by, I think it’s really getting to him.”
How the rest of the tournament will play out is anyone’s guess, given the slow conditions of what’s proving to be a difficult course.
“I’m a Mickelson fan,” said Kindred. “I think it’s time for him. I really think that he can play. He’s a smart guy. He knows what this course asks of you. I think he’s going to be there.”