ARDMORE, Pa. — The rain poured down Monday morning at Merion Golf Club, interrupting practice rounds for the U.S. Open. Then it poured again. And again. And again.
The rain, which measured 11/2 inches by late afternoon and continued to fall into the evening, left Merion’s famed East Course a swamp in the fairways and the rough, and particularly outside the ropes where the crush of spectators left a muddy mess.
However, the United States Golf Association expressed optimism that Merion’s drainage system will do its job and have the course in playable shape for Thursday’s start of the 113th national championship, even with rain in the forecast through Thursday.
“It is maybe the best draining golf course I have ever seen,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said at a news conference late Monday afternoon. “If you walk this course, you know there’s hardly any flat lies at Merion. Its surface drains beautifully.”
The course absorbed 31/2 inches of rain in Friday’s deluge from Tropical Storm Andrea and came out of it well, with only minor flooding in the 11th fairway.
Davis said there is a contingency plan in place to play some holes on Merion’s West Course should holes on the East Course prove to be unplayable, but he called it a “10,000 to 1” shot.
“We’re going to have a soft course this week, all week,” two-time Open champion Ernie Els said. “It means that if you’re on your game, you’re going to have a lot of birdie putts. There’s quite a few par-4s where you’ve just got to put it in the fairway, and then you’ve got quite a short second shot.”
Former Masters champion Mike Weir joined Gig Harbor’s Kyle Stanley and a handful of others in the Open field as alternates.
Stanley was one of the top 60 in the world through Sunday, while Weir led a list of five alternates from the qualifier in Columbus, Ohio.
Scott stays low
Except for the biggest stars, most players win a major and hit the talk-show circuit. Adam Scott kept it simple after winning the Masters. He made one appearance on an American TV show, one for his native Australia.
“I felt they were important for me to do,” Scott said. “I feel I’ve been welcomed in the States and really supported, and I also wanted to show my appreciation for everyone in America, as well, because I’m really lucky how much support I get out here. … I try and entertain people on the golf course, not on talk shows.”
In what was talked about Monday as “The Handshake,” Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia finally saw each other on the practice range for the first time since Garcia jokingly said last month he would have Woods over for dinner during the U.S. Open and “we will serve fried chicken.”
They shook hands, a moment captured by a fan who posted it to his Twitter account.
Woods and Garcia had been going at it since the third round of The Players Championship, a feud that began when Garcia suggested Woods should have been paying attention when taking a club from the bag, which caused the gallery to cheer as Garcia was about to play his shot.
“You can’t tell the wind direction at the green because there aren’t any flags on top of the flagsticks.”
– NBC analyst Gary Koch on the wicker baskets used at Merion. Koch missed the cut at the 1981 U.S. Open.
The club will use its traditional wicker this year, making it 17 of 18 USGA events it has hosted.