Players practice on West Course, a mile away

Tank Goya practices on the West Course driving range. When the Open starts, playerswill have to hurry between the range and the East Course.
Tank Goya practices on the West Course driving range. When the Open starts, playerswill have to hurry between the range and the East Course. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 14, 2013

An interesting feature of this U.S. Open: The driving range is on another golf course.

The range is over on Merion's West Course, just over a mile away, which means golfers have to shuttle over to their starting tees, No. 1 and 11 on Thursday and Friday. (No. 11 is much closer to the clubhouse than 10, causing that funky arrangement.)

"I don't think I've ever played in a tournament where before the tournament starts they're already saying guys will miss tee times," Graeme McDowell said. "It's not ideal, obviously."

Nobody from the USGA is saying anyone will miss his time.

"We go through this whether it's at Pebble Beach, Bethpage, or wherever - where there's a shuttle maybe up to the 10th teeing ground," said USGA executive director Mike Davis. "I can think at Pebble it probably took longer, Bethpage it probably took longer. We have a wonderful transportation system set up."

Davis did say that if the transportation became the reason a player was late for his tee time, "it would be allowed under the rules that we could waive a penalty of disqualification or some penalty for being late to the tee."

However, he added, "but ultimately it is the player's responsibility to get to his first tee ground on the time."

"I wouldn't be the most punctual person in the world, so my caddie is already on my case," McDowell said. "It was pretty much the first thing he said to me when I arrived [Monday]. 'If you want 50 minutes hitting golf balls, you're going to have to be getting out of your car literally an hour and 30 before your tee time. Basically giving you 40 minutes of potential messing around, shuttles, traffic, walking to tees.' "

McDowell wasn't complaining. He's noticed that the whole neighborhood has been turned into the tournament grounds.

"Literally, we're in someone's backyard," McDowell said. "If it wasn't for the cooperation of the neighborhood here, literally we wouldn't be here this week."

A shuttle from just off the 16th green Wednesday took eight minutes to get to the driving range, which means the golfers shouldn't need more than five minutes, with open road all the way, away from galleries. They won't be fighting the crowds on Ardmore Avenue.

"They can get from Point A to Point B without traffic," Davis said. "That's not going to be the issue."

The anxiety might be whether golfers will get a shuttle at the exact moment they want one.

There is a putting green on the West Course in addition to the usual one on the East Course, and a chipping area, but players talked about how they will warm up, then travel a little.

"A lot of the guys are talking about, how early we have to leave to get to the first tee or the [11th] tee," Tiger Woods said. "What that time is going to be.

"You don't want to leave too late, but you also don't want to get there too early - you cool off a little bit," Woods added. "So that's a feel thing that we're trying out on the practice rounds, figure out what the time is going to be and what the number is going to be. And seeing what we have to allow."

"I'm probably going to be the guy whose caddie has 10 minutes buffer," McDowell said. "I will not be the guy missing the tee time."


Contact Mike Jensen at mjensen@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @jensenoffcampus.

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