ARDMORE, Pa. – When Luke Donald walked off Merion late Thursday, he’d played a textbook round, attacking the East Course’s easier holes and moving into the lead at 4 under with a short birdie putt at the 13th hole.
The playbook changed early Friday, however, when the Englishman returned to the course to complete his delayed first round with winds shifting out of the north and the temperature dropping into the low 50s. As a result, Merion’s most demanding holes (Nos. 14, 15 and 17) were now into the wind and playing much more difficult.
“A complete switch in wind and obviously a big drop in temperature. So those holes are playing long,” Donald said. “Very different to yesterday ... it made 14, 15, 17 a lot harder.”
Donald managed to par those holes, but three-putted the 16th and 18th holes for a 2-under 68 and a share of second place.
Even with the difficult finish, it was just Donald’s second opening round in the 60s in 10 starts at the U.S. Open, where he has never posted a top-10 finish. The change of fortune, however, was not a surprise to Donald.
“I felt like it's a course where it wasn't too demanding in terms of having to hit a lot of drivers,” said Donald, who made a scouting trip to Merion last Wednesday and Thursday. “That put a lot of irons into my hands off tees, and I just felt like it was a little bit more suited to my style of play.”
Donald had a quick turnaround on Friday, heading out for his second round about an hour after completing Round 1.