Local/State

Stormy weather forecast for Round 1 of U.S. Open

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

We have had two absolutely perfect days for the practice rounds. There's less mud, and the course has been drying out nicely.

But that's about to change again with more heavy downpours forecast for Round One on Thursday. The folks running this tournament are keeping their fingers crossed.

"If we do get hit, it's probably going to be more mid-afternoon, late afternoon. So I think we're going to get a lot of great golf in tomorrow, unaffected by the weather," said USGA Executive Director Mike Davis on Wednesday afternoon.

PARKING AREA CLOSED DUE TO RAIN THREAT

But the threat of more rain did prompt officials to close one of its designated parking areas on Wednesday night.

In a statement, organizers announced the parking area at Rose Tree Park in Media (designated as the RED Lot) would be closed to U.S. Open visitors for the rest of the tournament.

Spectators will instead be redirected to the Granite Run Mall, about 2.9 miles away, with shuttle buses operating from 5:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. each day to and from Merion Golf Club.

"With a variable weather forecast in store for Thursday, we continue to take proactive measures to ensure the safety and convenience of spectators driving to and from the U.S. Open Championship," said Reg Jones, senior director of operations for the USGA, in a statement.

"We continue to emphasize that there are plenty of convenient public transportation options to get U.S. Open fans to and from the championship, and we encourage fans to take advantage of these options wherever possible," Jones said.

The USGA said the PPL Park (BLUE Lot) in Chester, Pa. would continue to operate as originally scheduled.

RAINY ROUND, SOGGY FANS

Meantime, memories of Monday's deluge lingered. It was tough on the fans and the players. Merion was supposed to be hard and fast.

Local favorite Jim Furyk of West Chester, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, predicts slow and soft will still be a challenge.

"If you can get through some of those longer holes in the softer conditions around par, then you've got a lot of shorter holes. You can handle it with some wedges, some soft greens where guys can get aggressive. Someone will find a way to shoot a bigger number," Furyk said.

Fans may be leery about the forecast for heavy rain, strong winds, and even hail. But the guy who has to keep the show running says they'd be foolish to stay home.

"Absolutely come out! How can you miss this? This hasn't happened here at Merion for 32 years. It's on one of the great golf courses anywhere. So if you miss this, you're going to be sorry," said Mike Davis.

One father and son team weathered the storm Monday. Now, they're all geared up for tomorrow.

"Went out and bought a pair of buck boots and a pair of rain pants, and we're good to go for the rest of the week. We will be here early in the morning and hopefully get out early before it gets too bad," said Jeff Kelly of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Bill Vagnoni of Havertown says the forecast won't frighten him away either.

"I mean, this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, to come see the U.S. Open here. I'll be here, yes I will," he said.

The USGA says it will refund tickets if they don't get in at least four hours of golf tomorrow.

The first tee time is 6:45. That means there won't be any refunds if play continues past 10:45 tomorrow morning.

So get out here early if you've got tickets.

MESSAGE TO AMATEUR GOLFERS: PICK UP THE PACE!

U.S. Open organizers were putting out another message to amateur golfers earlier Wednesday, unrelated to the weather.

Most of the fans out at Merion Golf Club on Wednesday are weekend golfers who wish they could crush a ball like the pros. But the USGA is hoping they don't try to emulate them too closely.

Professional golfers play a very deliberate game. Thousands of dollars are riding on almost every shot. Weekend warriors don't have as much at stake, but they sometimes play as if they do.

The USGA wants them to stop agonizing over every shot and pick up the pace.

USGA President Glen Nager explains, "Pace of play has been an issue for decades, but it's now become one of the most significant threats to the health of the game. Five hour plus rounds are common, and they're incompatible with modern life."

A twosome of professional golfers can take five hours or more to complete a championship round. The benchmark for a foursome of amateurs should be around four hours. But anyone who plays on the weekend knows that's as likely as a hole-in-one.

Ted Loya of Clinton, New Jersey tells us, "That's really one of the big frustrations. So we try to get out as early as we can. You know, we were just talking about that on the way down. The first tee time in the morning is the best time to get off. You kind of have the whole course open in front of you. It's nice."

Nice, but it is tough to get that first tee time.

The USGA says a recent study shows 91 percent of golfers are bothered by slow play, half of which admit they have walked off the course in frustration midway through a round.

The offenders know who they are.

Mike Paolucci of Broomall, Pennsylvania admits, "I'm not a real quick player myself, so it's kind of difficult to get frustrated with people who play at the same pace that I do."

The USGA will be driving home its point with a series of public service announcements during the US Open, featuring Tiger Woods among others urging average players to pick up the pace, "while we're young."

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While the US Open is ongoing, drivers should prepare for delays in the area around Merion Golf Club throughout the week and into the weekend. Get a list of road closures online at http://www.haverfordtownship.com.

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