Mickelson back in Calif., returning for Thursday

Two groundskeepers clear water from the 16th green on the East Course at Merion Golf Club. Merion hasn't been the only victim of rain during Open week in the Northeast. Bethpage Black endured delays in 2009, and Congressional was plagued in 2011. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Two groundskeepers clear water from the 16th green on the East Course at Merion Golf Club. Merion hasn't been the only victim of rain during Open week in the Northeast. Bethpage Black endured delays in 2009, and Congressional was plagued in 2011. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Posted: June 13, 2013

Something happened to send Phil Mickelson away from the U.S. Open: Monday's rain, and his daughter's graduation from the eighth grade.

Mickelson had expected to practice Monday at Merion Golf Club, hold a news conference Tuesday, and fly afterward to his home in suburban San Diego for the graduation of his daughter, Amanda. But he ended up flying to California on Monday.

"Amanda is speaking at her eighth-grade graduation ceremony Wednesday, and I always planned on being here for that," Mickelson said in a statement, "but since it was raining so much Monday and we didn't know if we'd even be able to play a sloppy course, I came home [Monday] to practice in great weather on my range and greens.

"I'll be ready to go on Thursday," he said.

Mickelson is scheduled to tee off for his opening round at 7:11 a.m. Thursday. A spokesman for the 42-year-old golfer said he did not know when Amanda's ceremony was ending and when Mickelson would be able to leave San Diego.

Mickelson played practice rounds at Merion on Monday and Tuesday of last week before heading for Memphis for the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He called Merion "really a wonderful setup . . . the best I've seen.

"I think the reason I like it so much is they've made the hard holes more difficult," he said last week. "They've made them harder, but they did not make the easy holes harder. They gave you birdie opportunities on the easy holes and they made tough pars a little bit harder, which allowed the player that is playing well to separate himself from the field."

Slow(er) play

Players received a warning about pace of play when they registered for the U.S. Open at Merion, with the notice reading, "Be observant, reach your decision quickly, and execute your shots with promptness and dispatch."

No, it didn't happen this week. The warning was issued for the 1950 U.S. Open, according to the book Miracle at Merion by David Barrett on Ben Hogan's victory.

The note is interesting because on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press, the U.S. Golf Association will announce the start of a comprehensive campaign to wipe out slow play on the recreational level.

Slow play became an issue in the 1949 Open, when the pace of play for a threesome ranged from 3 minutes, 27 seconds to 4:16. Then-USGA executive director Joe Dey called it "just awful, [it] didn't make any sense," and feared that slow play was ruining the game's popularity.

The unlucky Northeast

Mother Nature has not been very kind to the Northeast in recent years during U.S. Open week.

The 2009 Open at Bethpage Black on Long Island suffered numerous rain delays and finished the regulation 72 holes on Monday afternoon. Two years later, Congressional near Washington played long and wet from constant rain and Rory McIlroy set two championship scoring records - 16-under par and a 268 total.

This week, Merion endured heavy rain last Friday and Monday, and may see significant rain again during Thursday's opening round.

"The East Coast has been battered these last U.S. Opens," said Graeme McDowell, the 2010 Open champion at Pebble Beach. "It is what it is this time of the year in the Northeast. It's tough. I feel for everyone involved this week.

"I played this golf course 12 months ago and it was phenomenal, ready to go. I played it last Wednesday, it's phenomenal and ready to go. Then we get here and it's disappointing."


Contact Joe Juliano at jjuliano@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @JoeJulesInq.

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