ARDMORE, Pa. — About the only sure thing when it comes to Phil Mickelson and his golf clubs is that he carries 14 of them, as the rules stipulate. It’s figuring out which 14.
Even though Merion can be long and tough at the start of the round, and it ends with a 521-yard hole, Mickelson decided not to carry a driver in the opening round. Instead, he had five wedges. He raved about the “Phrankenwood” – his name for his hot 3-wood – at the Masters Tournament, but this was a regular 3-wood that he could still hit about 280 yards in the air. On the par-5 second, he was even with Keegan Bradley.
“I felt like there were potentially two holes that I might hit driver, 5 and 6,” Mickelson said. “I can’t hit it on 4 (a par 5) because it goes down on that sidehill lie and it goes in the rough. I can’t hit it on most of the holes. And I felt the 64-degree wedge out of some of the conditions would allow me to save a stroke here or there, more so than an extra 20 yards on 5 and 6.”
ANOTHER REVIEW: USGA vice president Thomas O’Toole met with Steve Stricker after he birdied his last hole for 71. O’Toole said a call came in that Stricker improved his lie in an area where he intended to take a penalty drop by walking back and forth on the thick grass.
His tee shot went on the edge of a bunker in the trees short and left of the green. The rules official determined it was not in a bunker, and Stricker took a one-shot penalty for an unplayable lie because a tree got in the way of his swing. With the elevated green, he walked up the hill a few times to see the flag. O’Toole said the viewer suggested Stricker trampled the grass where he was to drop the ball. After meeting with Stricker, it was determined that he did not drop it in the area he was walking, and it was not a violation.
PLENTY OF RUST: Louis Oosthuizen wasn’t sure he would be able to play in the U.S. Open because his wife was expecting their third child this week. Daughter Emma arrived on Friday and all is well – except for his game.
With the baby on the way, and a minor neck injury, Oosthuizen went 24 days without playing a full round of golf until a practice round at Merion on Tuesday.
“That was my first round after the Byron Nelson,” he said after 75. “It was frustrating that I couldn’t prepare properly. The mistakes I’m making are stupid. The way I played it feels more toward an 80.”
Oosthuizen said his neck still bothers him.
“It’s more after hitting, when I’m walking,” he said, adding that he had no pain.
As for his family, Emma weighed in at 7 pounds, 7 ounces. Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion at St. Andrews, has two other daughters.
NO WOULDA, COULDA, SHOULDA: The heavy rains early in the week washed away plenty of practice time for golfers at the U.S. Open, a tough situation since few had an opportunity to get familiar with venerated Merion Golf Club beforehand.
Not that Jerry Kelly was complaining.
Not after opening with an even-par 70 on a day interrupted again by a 3½-hour rain delay.
Kelly admitted a lack of course knowledge left him scrambling on more than a few occasions to choose the best line for approach shots. He got in only one 18-hole practice round because of a steady downpour early in the week, and he skipped Wednesday altogether.
“I don’t play 18 holes the day before a major. I’m too old for that, sorry,” the 46-year-old veteran said.
For all that, his only real breakdown came at No. 18, where Kelly made a double bogey. On the plus side, Thursday’s lengthy delay gave him a chance to catch up on his movie-watching, in this case The Master, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman.
“It’s a pretty darn good movie,” Kelly told reporters after his round, doing double-duty as a critic. “You should rent it.”
SLEEPYHEADS: Bubba Watson’s ball was in the rough and he had some time to think about his next shot.
About 3½ hours’ worth.
Mickelson dozed off during the break in his round. So did Bradley. Schwartzel played Angry Birds on his iPhone.
For the early starters Thursday at Merion Golf Club, rain interrupted play at 8:36 a.m., forcing a scramble for the clubhouse.
Watson, the 2012 Masters champion, put his time planning his way out of the rough to good use.
“Somehow, I made par on that hole when I came back out,” said Watson, who shot a 1-over 71. “The break actually helped me. Now, I can go back and watch the NBA game and be able to sleep in. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to stay awake that whole time.”