Luke Donald holds a one-shot lead over Phil Mickelson as first-round play resumed this morning at golf’s U.S. Open, the season’s second major championship.
Donald was among 78 players in the 156-man field unable to complete the opening round yesterday at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, after play was halted twice by thunderstorms that moved through the Philadelphia area.
Donald, a 35-year-old Englishman, had completed 13 holes.
Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott -- the three top-ranked golfers in the world -- resumed play on the 11th hole this morning, with Woods sinking a par putt of less than five feet. Woods moved to 3-over this morning when he bogeyed the 12th.
Yesterday’s first weather suspension interrupted Mickelson’s morning round and lasted about 3 1/2 hours, while the second halted play for 45 minutes while Woods and his group were on the course after teeing off at 4:44 p.m. Play was stopped for the night at 8:16 p.m.
It was the 13th of 24 U.S. PGA Tour events that’s had some sort of delay this season.
The forecast for today calls for a high of 73 degrees (23 Celsius) with a 30 percent chance of showers, according to the National Weather Service.
Yesterday’s rain further softened a course that was already soaked by storms that dumped about six inches of water at Merion in the week leading up to the tournament.
Scott, the reigning Masters champion, also took advantage of yesterday’s favorable afternoon conditions and birdied his final hole of the day to get to 3 under through 11 holes.
Scott was playing with McIlroy and Woods, a three-time U.S. Open winner. McIlroy is 1 under par.
Defending U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson was 2 under after completing eight holes. Mathew Goggin and Alistair Presnell of Australia are also on the course at 2 under, each with six holes completed.
Of the 78 players who started in the morning and finished the first round, only two were under par.
Mickelson opened his round with a three-putt bogey on the par-4 11th hole and then made four birdies, including one of about 30 feet on the 237-yard, par-3 ninth hole, to climb atop the leaderboard. Mickelson, 42, also opened with a 3-under 67 in the 1999 U.S. Open in Pinehurst, North Carolina, where he had the first of his five second-place finishes.
The past three years, Mickelson started the U.S. Open with rounds of 76, 74 and 75.
“It’s the best U.S. Open setup I’ve ever seen,” Mickelson told reporters. “They moved the tees back on the more difficult holes, which made it even tougher pars. I love that because if you’re playing well you’re going to be able to make pars and you’re going to be able to separate yourself from the field by making pars. But on the easy holes they didn’t trick them up and take away your birdie opportunities.”
Seventy-one of yesterday’s 78 early starters shot over par at the 6,996-yard course, the shortest U.S. Open venue since New York’s Shinnecock Hills played at the same yardage in 2004.
“You can’t really be aggressive on the greens,” said Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium, who at 1 under was the only player other than Mickelson to finish the first round below par. “They’re not the fastest, but fast enough to get you in trouble at times.”
Charl Schwartzel and Tim Clark of South Africa opened with even-par rounds of 70, as did Jerry Kelly and Rickie Fowler of the U.S. and Australia’s Jason Day.
Sergio Garcia of Spain, who last month apologized for a racial comment directed toward Woods, shot a 3-over par 73. Garcia had one eagle, four birdies, three bogeys, a double-bogey and a quadruple-bogey 8 at the par-4 15th hole.
While some fans were heard criticizing Garcia, he said the comments weren’t distracting.
“There were a couple here and there, but I felt that the people were very nice for the whole day,” he said. “I think that almost all of them were behind me and that was nice to see.”
Brandt Snedeker, the U.S. PGA Tour’s 2012 FedEx Cup champion, shot 74, while Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA Championship winner, opened with a 77. Bradley has yet to shoot below par in five career U.S. Open rounds.
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