Merion's many mood swings proved difficult test

By Randall MellJune 17, 2013, 2:22 am

ARDMORE, Pa. – This 113th U.S. Open treated us to one of the great comebacks in this championship’s history.

What we witnessed Sunday in suburban Philadelphia ranks up there with Arnold Palmer’s charge from seven shots back in the final round to win at Cherry Hills in 1960.

Right there with Johnny Miller’s final-round 63 to come from six shots back and win at Oakmont in 1973.

No, this isn’t about Justin Rose’s marvelous triumph Sunday. It’s about Merion’s triumphant return.

Dismissed and forgotten as a U.S. Open venue for 32 years, Merion Golf Club is back in a big way as a major player in the championship’s rotation.

At least it should be.

“Whatever else she is, Merion ain’t no lady,” Pulitzer prize winning columnist Jim Murray wrote back in 1971 after Lee Trevino beat Jack Nicklaus in a playoff here.

She ain’t no old lady, either.

That was the fear when the USGA announced that it was bringing the U.S. Open back to Merion. The fear was that this little, old course couldn’t hold up to today’s big hitters and their high-tech toys. The notion that this might be the Massacre of Merion loomed at week’s start with trepidation the old course would yield record scores in an embarrassing birdie blitz.

Merion’s spirit must have chuckled wickedly.

Lucrezia Borgia didn’t break as many hearts as Merion did this week.

In so many ways, Merion stole the show as the stage and the star.

She may be 100 years old, but she is golf’s new femme fatale.

Tiger Woods? Merion spurned him in his quest to win his first major in five years. Woods limped home licking his wounds Sunday after shooting himself out of contention in a 10-over-par weekend.

Rory McIlroy? Merion rejected all his advances. He finished a shot worse than Woods for the week.

The world’s No. 1-2 players were cumulatively 27 over par.

Hey, they fared better than the grouping of Graeme McDowell, Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk. That trio of major championship winners suffered together and all missed the cut with a cumulative score of 40 over par.

Steve Stricker opened Sunday a shot off the lead, but then Merion turned him away as a suitor, too. Stricker blew his tee shot out of bounds at the second hole in the final round. Then, after re-teeing, he blew a long iron from the middle of the fairway out of bounds there. He wasn’t a threat the rest of the day.

Sergio Garcia made the cut but hit five balls out of bounds through the first three rounds and took a 10 on a hole.

Rose won Sunday at 1 over par for 72 holes, exactly the same score Webb Simpson won with at the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club last year.

This U.S. Open, though, played out so differently from last year’s, from any year’s, really.

That’s because the nature of Merion is so different from most U.S. Open venues, where a parade of pars is the winner’s formula.

Merion was a parade of bogeys, and then a parade of birdies, with a parade of pars wedged in between.

Players’ scorecards at Merion read like an EKG report. Up and down ... up and down ... up and down.

What Merion giveth, Merion took away with a vengeance.

Merion is beautifully, wickedly and provocatively bi-polar.

There were kind and gentle moments amid the pain and suffering Merion delivered.

From that little 98-yard par 3 to the itty bitty par 4s to the monster holes in between, the shortest U.S. Open venue (6,996 yards) in almost a decade is wickedly unbalanced.

“There are not many U.S. Opens where I stand on a tee and hit a 7-iron,” Jason Day said after tying for second with Phil Mickelson. “It was a fun course to play. I know it was a very difficult course. There’s a good mix of long holes with short holes, and I think that every club in the bag got a workout this week. So, I think that it would be sad for it not to come back to a U.S. Open.”

This golf course has so much history, with Bobby Jones winning the Grand Slam here, with Ben Hogan coming back from a head-on collision with a bus to win the U.S. Open here, with Lee Trevino beating Jack Nicklaus in a playoff. This week gave the USGA a chance to showcase some of American golf’s great history.

“Absolutely, like a lot of us thought, Merion stood the test of time,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “For those that really studied Merion, it's always been short, relative to other championship sites, and it's always, always held its own. It's always a great test of golf. And we knew it would be.”

Rose said winning on such a historic venue adds to the wonder of winning his first major.

“The golf club is steeped in history,” Rose said. “That really sort of hit home when I came here Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of last week. I was able to appreciate this golf course in the quiet moments, when there was nobody around, when there weren't thousands of people here for the championship. And that's when I did fall in love with the golf course.”

After winning the U.S. Open in 1971, Trevino said he fell in love with Merion, and he didn’t even know her last name. Rose said he joked about Trevino’s line all week. He also came to appreciate Merion’s moods.

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“What I first loved about Merion is how one of the local caddies described it: The first six holes are drama, the second six holes are comedy, and the last six holes are tragedy,” Rose said. “Like a good theatrical play.”

Davis was the man behind the curtain who pulled the strings at this U.S. Open.

Tom O’Toole, the chairman of the USGA’s championship committee, said Davis was pivotal in getting this championship back at Merion. Though he wasn’t executive director when the USGA voted seven years ago to return here, Davis made the case for Merion’s return back when he was head of rules and competition.

“Mike’s not given enough credit,” O’Toole said. “Mike is the one who stuck his neck out.”

You want validation of Merion as a suitable U.S. Open venue? Even with a disappointing sixth runner-up finish in this championship, Phil Mickelson endorsed a return to Merion.

“I thought the golf course was fabulous,” Mickelson said. “I loved the hard holes being really hard, and I loved having the chances to make birdies.”

Davis said before deciding whether a U.S. Open will return to Merion, the club will have to offer an invitation for its return. Davis sounds like a man who wants to come back here.

He isn’t alone.

“I hope we have a chance to come back,” Mickelson said.

Even in the wake of his defeat, Mickelson appreciated a good comeback story.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.

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Football coach hates golf: Don't need practice swearing

By Jason CrookApril 20, 2018, 10:15 pm

Some football coaches are a little more talkative than others. On one side of the spectrum, there's Bill Belichick. On the other sits Washington State football coach Mike Leach.

Leach always delivers the goods, and when asked recently if he liked golf, he didn't hold back:

As wrong as the 57-year-old is on the topic (golf is awesome), the man makes some hilarious points:

• “It’s boring. I don’t care where that ball goes.”

• "Golfers are always practicing their swing. But you know what I never did? I never practice fishing in my living room.”

• "They'll line up over the ball and they'll say they're going to do something that you can't do with a sniper rifle and a scope, but they're going to do it with a stick and a ball."

• “Golf’s pretty much for people that don’t swear effectively enough or need practice. And so there are people that need golf, and I don’t think I do.”

So in conclusion, it's confirmed: Mike Leach - not a golf guy.