Fowler's familiarity with Merion helps in first round

Posted: June 15, 2013

Rickie Fowler played at Merion Golf Club during the 2009 Walker Cup, when he starred in a victory over Britain and Ireland. Of the top professionals at this week's U.S. Open, few have the experience on the course that Fowler possesses.

So on a day when one of the shortest courses in recent Open history included scores higher than anticipated, Fowler was not especially surprised even though the course is listed at 6,996 yards.

"There's some nasty rough out there," Fowler said. "It is short on my card, and it was soft today, which makes it play longer. I actually think this course plays more like a 74-, 7,500-yard golf course, just because you have the stretch of [holes] 7 through 13."

Fowler shot even-par 70 during an interrupted round. It at least keeps him within reasonable contention of trying to make his second big event at Merion a memorable experience. He started on No. 11 and recovered from a double-bogey on No. 7 by birdieing three of his final five holes.

"I made a few mistakes out there," Fowler said. "I actually made a few good putts coming in. A little up and down, hopefully be able to get rid of a few of the mistakes that I made. Missed a couple of greens where I shouldn't have. Missed a couple short putts. Other than that, salvaged a pretty good round today."

Known for his colorful personality that includes comical YouTube clips, Fowler even kept the mood light during the weather delay. Fowler and Bubba Watson "video-bombed" interviews with Jason Day and Matteo Manassero by making humorous faces and gestures in the background.

That personality would be on display if the 24-year-old were to break through with a major victory.

Despite his No. 32 world ranking, Fowler has only one PGA Tour win since turning pro in 2009: the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship. His best finish in a major was a tie for fifth in the 2011 British Open. His top U.S. Open finish was a tie for No. 41 last year.

Before he turned pro, though, he went 4-0 during the Walker Cup at Merion. Fowler said what's fun about this course is that he gets to hit different clubs off the tee, and estimated that he used his driver just six times: on Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 18.

The shortest club he used off the tee, besides on par-3, was his 5-iron, and he went "pretty much all through the bag from the long iron to the woods."

Because of the relatively high scores, an even-par finish kept Fowler among the top finishers who started in the morning. He expected to build on his performance during what should be more dry conditions Friday.

"Thursday, you can't exactly win it, but you can definitely take yourself out of it," Fowler said. "So I feel like I'm in a good position, swinging well. Nice to finally see a few putts go in. So excited for the next round, whenever we get to play."

Contact Zach Berman at Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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