U.S. Open, Day 2: Horsch-es For Courses
By Torleif Sorenson on 6/14/13
(Soundtrack by Philadelphia's Hall & Oates)

King Horse

After getting his first PGA Tour win in New Orleans earlier this year, Billy Horschel put on a display early Friday afternoon that would make Ben Hogan proud; he hit all 18 greens in regulation, which is almost inconceivable. He had only one three-putt (at the par-3 13th), securing birdies at 2, then two-in-a-row at two tough holes (11 and 12), then a closing birdie at 18, which impressive because 18 gave many more double bogeys than birdies. It was a very well-deserved 67, putting him into an eventual tie for the lead – a lead he held alone for awhile on Friday afternoon.
"I didn't try to be really aggressive, just took what I had in front of me... the last two weeks, I was really impatient on the golf course."
It's interesting because before Thursday, Horschel had played only 18 holes here during the 2005 U.S. Amateur.

He is tied for the lead with Phil Mickelson, who had three bogeys, a result of struggling with short putts. After three-putting the first hole for the second straight day, he nearly holed one 145-yard approach. But despite carrying five wedges, Michelson dumped his approach at into a bunker at 9. Yet, he nearly holed that shot, leaving it eight inches away. He missed birdie opportunities at 10 and 11, then missed a heartbreaking par-save at 12. At 13, Lefty air-mailed the green into a fried-egg lie in the back bunker. Then his bunker shot hydro-planed over the hole, rolling 15 feet past. Bogey. Mickelson held it together through the next four holes, and hit 10 of the 14 fairways overall.

Just after the horn blew at 8:27 p.m., Mickelson nailed a long (and bumpy!) birdie putt at 18 to get in with a 72. He had 29 putts yesterday, 33 today – and that could have been much fewer if Mickelson had not burned enough edges to require a bottle of Bactine.

Steve Stricker put himself into contention in part with birdies at 2, 8, and 13, offset by just two bogeys at the 6th, which the USGA changed from a par-5 into a long par-4, and at the 414-yard 15th. His 69 leaves him at level par going into the weekend. It is plainly obvious that Stricker's reduced playing schedule this year is leaving him fresher for the majors.

The only golfer to complete the second round under par was England's Justin Rose, whose swing and putting were solid and calm. Rose bogeyed only the long 6th and the tough 15th, but earned birdies at 1, 2, and 8. Just one stroke behind the leaders, this writer not only expects Rose to come up smelling like a rose on Saturday, but also on Sunday evening.

After a 69 on Thursday, Ryder Cup stud Nicolas Colsaerts did awfully well to card a 72; his playing partners, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson made a mess of their scorecards on Friday and were put on the clock by rules officials. At the 9th, all three were in the hazard; D.J. and Bubba stumbled away with double bogeys, while Colsaerts was fortunate to escape with just a bogey. Bubba wound up with a 76, but Dustin Johnson have five bogeys and a double, lurching in with a 77.

(Hey D.J.! Send Paulina home so that you can concentrate!)

Playing with an obviously injured elbow, Tiger Woods had an admirable 70, balancing what few gifts Merion would give (birdies at the par-5 2nd and 4th holes, and at the short 13th) with what it would inevitably extact (bogeys at 7, 14, and 18). He may be four behind the leaders, but to consider him "out of the running" would be utterly foolish.

The only other two previous major winners in the clubhouse at +3 are Ernie Els and Rory McIlroy. John Senden did awfully well to get four birdies on Friday, because Merion bit back at some of the tougher holes, including a double at 9. Luke Donald bogeyed five of his first nine holes, but he recovered with four birdies, putting him at level par after 36.

Maneater

In an interview on Golf Channel, Mike Davis said that they’ve never used the winning score as a barometer of how tough the course setup should be.

Millions of us don't believe Davis was telling the truth there. If he were, then he would not have set up a 256-yard par-3 or a 500-plus-yard par-4. That said, Davis predicted that scoring would be better on Saturday.

More truthfully (in this writer's opinion), Davis said that the length of the course was not the sticking point in bringing the Open back to Merion; it was the size of the facility. This year, the U.S. Open facilities and infrastructure are shoe-horned into about 40% of the normal footprint of most Open courses. Evidence?
  • The players' check-in was in the library of a private house on Golf House Road.
  • The range is one mile away at the West Course.
  • A tremendous amount of space and infrastructure at Haverford College is in use this week.
The USGA's financial impact of selling fewer admission tickets, only one merchandise tent, and only two hospitality tents, is being estimated at roughly $10 million.

On Golf Channel Friday evening, Colin Montgomerie sang the praises of the course and the people, saying that it would be a tremendous shame if, in the future, the USGA decides that the Open has outgrown the infrastructure of Merion. This writer could not agree more.

Saturday In The Park

Merion will have dried out even more by Saturday morning, and with a forecast for sunshine and winds of only 5 to 7 miles per hour — the possibility of some low scores rears its head...

...depending on what Mike Davis gives the field.


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Image via USOpen.com


[ comments ]
jfurr says:
Daryl Hall has an uncanny resemblance to Stacey Peralta
6/14/13
 
[ post comment ]
 
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