Friday, June 17, 2016

US Open hit by bad weather: Only nine 

players complete rounds on opening day

OAKMONT, Pennsylvania – A few observations from the opening day at the U.S. Open, with three rain delays at Oakmont resulting in a suspension of play. The first round will resume Friday with half of the field still waiting to tee off. For more on Thursday’s play, check out the Daily Wrap-up.


The first rain delay lasted 79 minutes. The second delay lasted 2 hrs, 22 mins. It was not an easy day for anybody, as players and fans alike were constantly shuffling on and off the course in order to avoid the lightning threats and the pouring rain.
After the first delay at 10:04 a.m. local time, total time spent back in action was just over two hours. The final suspension came at 3:51 p.m. local time with just nine players completing their rounds, while 78 more – the afternoon draw – had yet to play. The leader in the clubhouse is amateur Scottie Scheffler with a 1-under 69. Andrew Landry leads at 3 under with a birdie attempt left on his final hole.
“It’s tough to get into a rhythm, obviously,” said Rickie Fowler, who’s 6 over through 12.
“It’s obviously a frustrating day having to keep coming off,” added Lee Westwood (1 under through 13), “but there’s nothing you can do about the weather.”
In hopes of getting as much golf in as possible, players were sent back on the course after the first delay without a warm-up, and had only a small window after the second delay to warm up.
“It’s a challenge not being able to warm up, going out there and trying to hit tee shots at the U.S. Open,” said defending champ Jordan Spieth (1 over through 11). “But it is what it is."
Shane Lowry and his playing partners were standing under cover next to the 7th tee for more than an hour during the first delay.
“It wasn’t ideal, but when I went back out there, I felt OK,” Lowry said. “I kind of normally don’t need to warm up that much, which is good for me. But I imagine some of the older guys might have been feeling it.”


Scottie Scheffler, who recently completed his sophomore season at the University of Texas, had the lone completed round under par. His 69 is thought to be the lowest round shot by an amateur in the first round of a U.S. Open at Oakmont.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Scheffler said of his score. “I played pretty solid. My lag putting was really good on the greens and I made some good 8-footers that kind of helped me keep the round going.”
Scheffler, 19, lives in Dallas and is a Longhorn, just like the U.S. Open’s defending champion, Jordan Spieth. Scheffler also won the U.S. Junior, just like Spieth, and contended in the AT&T Byron Nelson while still in high school (making a hole-in-one in 2014 as a 17-year-old). Scheffler won the 2013 U.S. Junior and finished T22 at the following year’s AT&T Byron Nelson. He is a Texas teammate of Beau Hossler, who contended in the 2012 U.S. Open as an amateur.
Scheffler made three birdies and two bogeys Thursday. His sister, Callie, is on the bag. Callie Scheffler, who played college golf at Texas A and M, is one week into an internship but had to take this week off to caddie for her brother.
Finishing his round allows him to avoid returning to the course early Friday and means he can stay up for tonight’s NBA Finals game.
“I was excited to get done on 18. I tapped in a 2 ½-footer kind of quickly, which maybe wasn’t the smartest idea. I wanted our group to get done so we didn’t have to come back in the morning because we were up at 4 a.m. this morning,” Scheffler said. “Some rest would be good tonight, and honestly, I really wanted to watch the basketball game tonight. I wanted to get done so I could stay up late and watch that.”


If the weather co-operates on Friday – the forecast does include a chance of rain – many players, including Jason Day, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson, may end up playing 36 holes.
Thus, as frustrating as it was for those who did get on the course Thursday, at least they were able to play in soft conditions and get a few holes under their belts. Those in the afternoon wave could face a very long Friday, with a quick turnaround between rounds.
“Hopefully, we’ll get some good conditions in the morning and those other guys have to play 36 holes in a row at a U.S. Open, which isn’t easy,” Spieth said.
Sectional qualifiers Tyler Raber, Austin Jordan and amateur Christopher Crawford are in the final first-round group to go off the 10th tee Friday.
“If I’m playing 36 tomorrow, I’m playing 36,” said Raber, currently an assistant coach at UC Davis. “It will be a long day but I had to (play) 36 for the sectional to get here. I’ll just try to draw on that experience and go from there.”


The practice rounds in dry weather this week were typical Oakmont-tough. But with overnight rains before the first round, the course softened up. Constant rains throughout the day meant the course never played the way it did during practice.
“Completely different golf course than we played in the practice round,” said Jordan Spieth. “I mean, night and day.”
It definitely got softer,” added Danny Lee (2 under through 13). “I was actually surprised how soft it was playing out there. The ball was actually spinning back and I would never imagine that was going to happen.”
Noted Harris English (1 under through 12): “Playing that practice rounds, it was hard to keep the ball on the green sometimes. When it softened up, you could take more dead aim at the flag and spin a couple balls back that you hadn’t seen in three days or so.”
When conditions change so dramatically, it’s the players who can make the adjustments the quickest that often benefit the most.
“It’s a different golf course now,” said Kevin Streelman (1 under through 16). “You’ve got to be prepared for it. I don’t think it’s necessarily easier or harder. It’s just different ... it’s going to take someone who is a chameleon to be able to adjust. There’s going to be some birdies to be made, but the trouble’s still out there.”


With receptive greens waiting for him, Jordan Spieth took advantage of the conditions from the start, spinning his approach on the par-5 12th to within four feet of the cup for an early birdie.
However, Spieth's early momentum was quickly lost two holes later on the 14th when a thunderstorm forced players off the course for 79 minutes.
When Spieth arrived back at his ball, he was forced to navigate a delicate pitch shot from just off the green that he failed to get up-and-down for his first bogey of the round.
He would go on to par five of his next six holes but bogeyed the par-4 2nd, his last hole of the day. The final four holes of his round were played into a strong headwind that added another challenge to the disjointed round that was initially called after Spieth had completed just 11 holes.
"Very hard with the wind being into us on a lot of the holes as well," Spieth said.


USGA officials opted to use the back tee and the back-hole pin placement on the par-5 12th on Thursday.
Officially 667 yards on the scorecard, the hole played to 684 yards in the first round, making it the longest-playing hole in U.S. Open history.
It actually played longer than that. With the wind blowing into the players’ faces, the hole probably was closer to 700 yards.
As a result, the 12th was one of the most difficult holes to birdie on Thursday, yielding just five birdies among the 69 players who completed play on the hole. It played to a stroke average of 0.217 above par, making it the 11th most difficult hole on the course.
How long was the hole playing? Rickie Fowler said he hit 3-wood, 5-iron, 4-iron to get to the green. The other par 5, the 609-yard fourth, played to a stroke average of 0.045 above par.


Bubba Watson was the only player to birdie the par-3 eighth, which played to 258 yards. Every other hole yielded two or more birdies on Thursday.
“I got lucky and made a 30-footer,” Watson said.
It was his fourth birdie on his front nine that also included three bogeys. Watson added another birdie at the 10th and is 2 under through 14 holes.





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