The gossip buzz at the Open

Posted: June 13, 2013

It may be hush-hush at Merion Golf Club during the early practice rounds of the U.S. Open.

But there was a growing buzz - sitting in the stands behind the fairways, shuffling down Golf House Road, standing at concessions where the chattiest of spectators were sipping brews before noon.

Ah, the sweet sound of gossip.

And it got louder as Thursday, the first day of tournament play, drew near.

Some golfer - no one knows who, of course - rented one of the homes along the golf course for more than $40,000!

Phil Mickelson likes the restaurants in Conshohocken and Wayne! (But where is he? Turns out Mickelson attended his daughter's eighth grade graduation in San Diego.)

As for Tiger Woods, was his girlfriend, Lindsey Vonn, here? Someone saw someone who looked like her on TV, but was it her? Most important, where is Tiger staying?

People said he had plans to stay in a home close to the course, but because he didn't like the furniture, he rented the first floor of the Radnor Hotel. What?

Despite no signs of the golf champ, the hotel was buzzing Tuesday night with people eager to catch a glimpse of a star.

"If he's here, I'm going to find him," said Bob Jones, a King of Prussia programmer who did not have tickets to the Open but was on a quest to find celebrities by bar hopping.

The places worth trying? The restaurants in neighboring towns, Verdad Tequila Bar on Lancaster Avenue, maybe, and Barnaby's on West Chester Pike in Havertown, where caddies were spotted. Just watch the black Lexuses driving with the U.S. Golf Association logo - it means a golfer is in the backseat behind the tinted windows.

On Wednesday afternoon, workers were still setting up corporate tents in USGA Partner Village - a compound behind the sixth hole where sponsors such as American Express, IBM, and Chevron offer open bar and luxury bathrooms to their guests.

Dressed all in white (he even tweeted the state of his pants at the end of a muddy practice), Rickie Fowler gave a talk to USGA members. At the American Express tent, Mickelson's coach, Sean Cochran, led a golf workout for guests.

No celeb-hunters in these places. If your ticket beeps a warning when scanned, security surrounds you and it's quietly suggested that you might want to leave.

One undeniable fact: The hottest player on the course isn't the elusive Woods or the fashionable Fowler, but 34-year-old Bubba Watson.

That, at least, according to an informal poll of women watching the action.

"Oh, yeah, I really like Bubba," said Kristin Katawczik as she walked through the crowd with a group of out-of-town friends enjoying a midmorning cocktail.

"He's just so cute," said life coach Elizabeth Chance of Wayne.

Decked out in a strapless lime green Lilly Pulitzer top, Chance and friend Chelsea Anderson were watching players at the 8th hole when, coincidentally, James Bradbeer Jr., president of the Lilly Pulitzer Group, whizzed by in a golf cart.

"What year Lilly is that?" he yelled out.

"Oh, I'm not sure," Chance said. "But it's great, isn't it?"

There is going to be a lot going on this week, she whispered: "This is the only the beginning."

Contact Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or Follow her on Twitter at ewellingtonphl.

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