Skies might open for U.S. Open

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Hiroyuki Fujita and the rest of the U.S. Open field have had their early-week practices disrupted by rain. The sun was shining Wednesday, but the grounds of Merion Golf Club have been saturated by rain the past week. That has raised concerns of flooding on some low-lying holes if more rain comes. And it is in the forecast.

By Gary Mihoces
USA TODAY Sports

ARDMORE, Pa. — The white things bouncing on the U.S. Open golf course Thursday might include more than golf balls. The Weather Channel is forecasting the possibility of hail for the opening round.

The sun was shining Wednesday, but the grounds of Merion Golf Club have been saturated by rain the past week. That has raised concerns of flooding on some low-lying holes if more rain comes.

And rain — and thunderstorms — are in the potential mix in the Thursday forecast on the The Weather Channel’s website: “Showers and thunderstorms — possibly strong in the afternoon. Storms may produce large hail and strong winds. High 74F. Winds SE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 60%.”

On Tuesday, there were some gray clouds over the course but no rain.

Last week the course took 3½ inches of rain from tropical storm Andrea. More rain, heavy at times, fell Monday. That disrupted practice rounds.

United States Golf Association and course officials have said Merion drains well. But low-lying holes, such as No. 11 and No. 12, are prone to flooding. No. 11 is at the convergence of two creeks.

Players have speculated all week that if the course is soggy it could lead to some especially low scores for an Open. The East Course at Merion is short by Open standards (under 7,000 yards). Soft greens could enable players to stick shots near the holes for plenty of shorter birdie putts.

Lee Trevino, who won the 1971 Open at Merion, says the course, under normal conditions, is a challenging test despite its lack of length.

“And don’t go by what they score here this week, simply because Merion may not have its teeth in because of the wetness,” Trevino says.

The Weather Channel says there is a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms Friday. It forecasts zero chance of rain for Saturday and a 10 percent chance for Sunday.

Trevino notes the rain will also help the rough grow at Merion.

“I know this rough is about five inches tall right now, but by Sunday it’s going to be 7 inches tall,” Trevino said Tuesday. “And if the wind keeps blowing, it will probably play like Merion should play Sunday.”

The USGA also says the tournament — and the course — shouldn’t be judged by the scores.

“It’s not about a score. Sure, we want it firm and fast,” USGA vice president Tom O’Toole said Wednesday. “We happen to play a sport that’s played outdoors. We’ve seen significant rain over the last week. ... So it’s not a perfect world, it’s not a perfect game. ... I encourage you to assess this not about that score but join us assessing this about this celebration of this historic club and the celebration of American golf.”

© 2013 USA TODAY. All rights reserved.

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