U.S. Open Thursday rundown: Six-hour rounds, Mickelson's (likely) early call and the known unknown
Welcome to the Dew Sweeper's U.S. Open rundown, your one-stop shop to catch up on the weekend action from the golf world. From the professional tours, trending news, social media headlines and upcoming events, here's every golf-related thing you need to know for the morning of June 15.
Pace-of-play issues loom
Golf is making a concerted effort across the sport to speed play up...except, apparently, at the U.S. Open. During the USGA’s Wednesday press conference, officials stated the allotted time for threesomes will be four hours and 52 minutes. However, that time is mostly factoring in the length of holes and distance from green to tee. Forecasts call for wind and rain on Friday, elements that will undoubtedly slow the proceedings up. Lord only knows what trials await those that find the fescue. Coupled with other considerations -- a wealth of blind shots, formidable pin placements -- some caddies are predicting six-hour rounds.
Complaints about slow play from the pros is nothing new, the topic momentarily grabbing the spotlight last year at Oakmont. And for those at home, the issue can be relatively solved with skillful editing and player-to-player transitioning. Nevertheless, for a course making its national debut, facilitating a sluggish pace is not an ideal first impression.
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
Phil's final game plan
Although many are praying for a dramatic entrance, it appears Phil Mickelson is resigning himself to reality. With Thursday's forecast calling for tame conditions, the six-time U.S. Open runner-up told Tim Rosaforte he won't wait until the last minute to cancel his cross-country plans.
“I know the forecast isn’t looking good, so I’ll most likely wait to make sure they tee off in the morning,” Mickelson said. “If the forecast continues to look good [for later in the day], I’ll withdraw first thing in the morning (California time)."
Of course, Phil does have a flair for theatrics. Until alternate Roberto Diaz's ball is in the air, we aren't counting him out.
Azinger's blunt Rory assessment
Give the man credit: Paul Azinger speaks his mind, and with conviction. During FOX's Wednesday coverage, Zinger jumped on the Johnny Miller Train, claiming a correlation between Rory McIlroy's injuries and his workout regimen.
“Pudgy Rory never got hurt, but fit Rory’s getting hurt a lot," Azinger said. "I question fitness. If you think fitness makes you better it probably makes you better. But I guess there’s a point of diminishing return, if you’re not careful.”
McIlroy's far from the first golfer to be targeted for his efforts in the gym. Nevertheless, given the 28-year-old's growing medical history, Azinger's point may gain momentum as the weekend rolls along.
Of course, one of the inherent beauties of sports is the ability to let your play speak for itself. If the wet forecasts hold true, McIlroy is on the short list of players likely holding the trophy at tournament's end. A better response -- or, ahem, zinger -- we cannot think.
The known unknown of Erin Hills
On the tournament's eve, the only certitude gleaned from the practice rounds is...well, that nobody knows what the hell to expect. Some assert the rugged terrain and penal fescue will eat the field alive. Others maintain, with soggy conditions and wide-open fairways, the winning score could better 10-under par.
Because of this ambiguity, a sense of trepidation has swept over the event, with many -- including the USGA -- praying things go off without a hitch. Though it doesn't match the excitement of the Masters, or an Open at Oakmont or claret jug visit to St. Andrews, the nervous energy is thrilling in its own right, similar to the buzz before a big-time boxing match. Which, considering the physical and psychological blows this tournament delivers, is apropos.
The next four days will deliver the final verdict, but Erin Hills and the circus it's hosting have built considerable intrigue. And without hype, most fights are for naught. Ring the bell, and let the games begin.