US Open day two: Equal terms at Merion

 

On equal terms with Merion. In two days’ time that might just be enough to make a major champion of Luke Donald. A birdie at the penultimate hole of his second round helped ease the pain of the five bogeys in six holes that preceded it. As he put it: “I’m in a good place, excited to be in contention.”

Donald signed for a 72 to lead in the clubhouse on level par. Only two players were in red numbers, leader Phil Mickelson on three under and Nicholas Colsaerts on one under par. Neither had hit a second round ball when Donald walked in. The first-day disruptions forced upon him the requirement to play 25 holes, a factor arguably in the loss of concentration on his back nine. He was on the course at 7.13am and was not done with the day until 3.30pm. That’s a shift.

“US Opens get tougher as the week goes on. The pins were harder to get to in the second round. It’s a tough golf course and I made too many mistakes on the greens. You try not to panic, and it was nice to make a birdie at nine coming in. That is nine birdies over two rounds. There will always be mistakes, You just to try to keep them to a minimum. This place shows you don’t have to make a course ultra long to make it difficult.”

What was it Mark Twain said about no winter being as cold as summer in San Francisco? Try Philadelphia in June. Donald and the rest of those poor unfortunates returning at seven bells to finish disrupted rounds found Merion a very different host yesterday. Donald, leading by one overnight shipped two strokes over the closing holes to fall one behind Mickelson at the end of his first round. The mercury was somewhere in the 50s and the wind had switched direction, firing Arctic daggers from the north. Nice.

The draw at the US Open is not ordinarily subject to the vagaries of climate in this way, unlike, for example, at The Open, where the vicissitudes of the British summer can transform a links course from pussycat to penal colony either side of lunch. Mickelson must have been laughing his jet-lagged socks off watching Donald and co labour through their finishing holes in waterproofs and woollies.

The 78 players in the late side of Thursday’s draw were sent straight back out within 90 minutes of signing for their first round cards. Mickelson had time to squeeze in a second return trip of the week to California had he wished and still have made it back for his 3:41pm tee time. Tiger Woods first act of the day was to stroke home a nasty four-footer for his par at the 11th hole. He spent most of the previous evening hacking out of rough that behaves like a Venus fly trap when a golf ball shows up. He was therefore in familiar territory on the 12th when his tee shot drifted off line. Once more it got the better of him resulting in a bogey.

Merion is rapidly turning into a golfing Rubicon, a line crossed in the nascent fight against the tech heavy mob who, with their graphite shafts and polymer golf balls, have stripped the sport of nuance and charm. Merion has returned golf to the purist. The test is not of power and length but of skill and intellect.

Though Donald bogeyed the closing two holes of his opening round, his 68 was his lowest in 30 rounds at the US Open, a quite spectacular statistic at an event thought to favour him. “I think everyone thought that as soon as the course got wet it was going to play easy. The scores certainly aren't showing that. The tough holes are extremely tough,” Donald said. “It does give you a little bit of balance with some of those shorter holes, but you really need to play those tough ones well. There was a complete switch in wind and obviously a big drop in temperature. So holes are playing long.”

Three hours after hitting his first shot of the day Donald was back where he started, beginning his second round from the 11th hole. The wind was getting up, but that was no bad thing since it was blowing the bad stuff away. Behind the passing front, temperatures were slowly rising, hitting the high-60s by noon. Donald was down to a tank top by now and, after successive birdies at 12 and 13 had returned him to his overnight score, was marching towards Merion’s graveyard stretch from 14 to the clubhouse with at least a hint of hope.

Rory McIlroy, in the beauty parade with Woods and Adam Scott a couple of groups behind, was also enjoying the first sighting of blue sky in two days with opening second round birdies at 11 and 12 to reach one over par. Woods birdied the third to reach two over. Every strike now was insurance against penalties promised almost everywhere.

Their rounds evolved in similar vein casting them in the roll of firemen, answering emergency calls all over the place. Both were pleased to post second round totals of 70 to close on three over par, three off Donald’s clubhouse lead. “Those who predicted 63s and 64s around here must be very good golfers,” McIlroy said. “I’m pleased with a 70 today and delighted to be in the mix going into the weekend.”

On equal terms with Merion. In two days’ time that might just be enough to make a major champion of Luke Donald. A birdie at the penultimate hole of his second round helped ease the pain of the five bogeys in six holes that preceded it. As he put it: “I’m in a good place, excited to be in contention.”

Donald signed for a 72 to lead in the clubhouse on level par. Only two players were in red numbers, leader Phil Mickelson on three under and Nicholas Colsaerts on one under par. Neither had hit a second round ball when Donald walked in. The first-day disruptions forced upon him the requirement to play 25 holes, a factor arguably in the loss of concentration on his back nine. He was on the course at 7.13am and was not done with the day until 3.30pm. That’s a shift.

“US Opens get tougher as the week goes on. The pins were harder to get to in the second round. It’s a tough golf course and I made too many mistakes on the greens. You try not to panic, and it was nice to make a birdie at nine coming in. That is nine birdies over two rounds. There will always be mistakes, You just to try to keep them to a minimum. This place shows you don’t have to make a course ultra long to make it difficult.”

What was it Mark Twain said about no winter being as cold as summer in San Francisco? Try Philadelphia in June. Donald and the rest of those poor unfortunates returning at seven bells to finish disrupted rounds found Merion a very different host yesterday. Donald, leading by one overnight shipped two strokes over the closing holes to fall one behind Mickelson at the end of his first round. The mercury was somewhere in the 50s and the wind had switched direction, firing Arctic daggers from the north. Nice.

The draw at the US Open is not ordinarily subject to the vagaries of climate in this way, unlike, for example, at The Open, where the vicissitudes of the British summer can transform a links course from pussycat to penal colony either side of lunch. Mickelson must have been laughing his jet-lagged socks off watching Donald and co labour through their finishing holes in waterproofs and woollies.

The 78 players in the late side of Thursday’s draw were sent straight back out within 90 minutes of signing for their first round cards. Mickelson had time to squeeze in a second return trip of the week to California had he wished and still have made it back for his 3:41pm tee time. Tiger Woods first act of the day was to stroke home a nasty four-footer for his par at the 11th hole. He spent most of the previous evening hacking out of rough that behaves like a Venus fly trap when a golf ball shows up. He was therefore in familiar territory on the 12th when his tee shot drifted off line. Once more it got the better of him resulting in a bogey.

Merion is rapidly turning into a golfing Rubicon, a line crossed in the nascent fight against the tech heavy mob who, with their graphite shafts and polymer golf balls, have stripped the sport of nuance and charm. Merion has returned golf to the purist. The test is not of power and length but of skill and intellect.

Though Donald bogeyed the closing two holes of his opening round, his 68 was his lowest in 30 rounds at the US Open, a quite spectacular statistic at an event thought to favour him. “I think everyone thought that as soon as the course got wet it was going to play easy. The scores certainly aren't showing that. The tough holes are extremely tough,” Donald said. “It does give you a little bit of balance with some of those shorter holes, but you really need to play those tough ones well. There was a complete switch in wind and obviously a big drop in temperature. So holes are playing long.”

Three hours after hitting his first shot of the day Donald was back where he started, beginning his second round from the 11th hole. The wind was getting up, but that was no bad thing since it was blowing the bad stuff away. Behind the passing front, temperatures were slowly rising, hitting the high-60s by noon. Donald was down to a tank top by now and, after successive birdies at 12 and 13 had returned him to his overnight score, was marching towards Merion’s graveyard stretch from 14 to the clubhouse with at least a hint of hope.

Rory McIlroy, in the beauty parade with Woods and Adam Scott a couple of groups behind, was also enjoying the first sighting of blue sky in two days with opening second round birdies at 11 and 12 to reach one over par. Woods birdied the third to reach two over. Every strike now was insurance against penalties promised almost everywhere.

Their rounds evolved in similar vein casting them in the roll of firemen, answering emergency calls all over the place. Both were pleased to post second round totals of 70 to close on three over par, three off Donald’s clubhouse lead. “Those who predicted 63s and 64s around here must be very good golfers,” McIlroy said. “I’m pleased with a 70 today and delighted to be in the mix going into the weekend.”

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