U.S. Open 2013: Storylines to watch

Tiger Woods, right, tees off on the eighth

Tiger Woods, right, tees off on the eighth hole as Lee Westwood, of England, watches during practice for the U.S. Open golf tournament at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. (June 11, 2013) (Credit: AP)

Storylines to follow

1. Tiger Woods' drought

The last time he won a major, Willie Randolph still was the Mets manager (in fact, Randolph was fired hours after Woods beat Rocco Mediate in a playoff at Torrey Pines, 2008)

 

2. Flood of birdies?

No way Merion (est. 1896) plays fast and firm, as everyone had hoped. Six inches of rain have fallen in the past week, and a howling storm is expected today. So greens will be target-practice soft.

 

3. History

From Ben Hogan's 1-iron to Lee Trevino's rubber snake, there is a pull from the past at Merion, and a feeling that whoever wins will be part of something bigger.

 

4. What's with Rory McIlroy?

He seems like a down-to-earth young man, but changes in equipment, management, friendships and golf fortunes make you wonder if success got to him.

 

5. The slam

Since Merion is where Bobby Jones completed the old-time version of the Grand Slam (U.S. and British Amateurs and Opens), can Masters champ Adam Scott get halfway to the modern sweep?

Not favored, but worth watching

1. Justin Rose: At 32, he comes into every major as a likely candidate to break through (Note: Adam Scott was on a list like this the day before the Masters)

 

2. Brandt Snedeker: Tour Championship and FedEx Cup winner also is 32, the same age as Scott.

 

3. Billy Horschel: 2013 Zurich Classic winner could be this year's Webb Simpson, coming out of the pack. Unafraid of the buzz surrounding yesterday's practice round with Tiger, Rory.

 

4. Kevin Chappell: A real long shot because he never has won on the PGA Tour. But he was second at Memorial and top 10 at the 2012 Open.

 

5. Matt Kuchar: Mark Teixeira's Georgia Tech buddy recently won Memorial, one of the top non-majors. Yesterday, he said, "I think that's a great thing about the game of golf, there's no clear-cut favorites."

Amateurs in a New York state of mind

1. Kevin Phelan: Born in Manhattan, where his father played professional squash, and lived in Ireland between the ages of 3 and 12, wants to play for visiting side at Walker Cup in Southampton this September.

2. Steven Fox: Son of a couple of Brooklynites who met on basketball playgrounds, the U.S. Amateur champ wants to be part of the home side at the Walker Cup.

3. Gavin Hall: Eighteen-year-old from upstate Pittsford qualified last week at Purchase, played in LPGA pro-am two days later with 16-year-old Lydia Ko.

 

Reasons why you shouldn't get caught up in the "Northeast Weather is Bad for the Open" theme during today's storm

1. They didn't have all that much rain at Congressional in 2011; the course just didn't handle it well.2. Criticism leveled at Shinnecock in 2004 was not that it was too wet, but that it was too dry.

3. No umbrellas are evident in that classic picture of Hogan at Merion in 1950.

4. Numerous times since 1896, the Open has been held in this part of the country and they've never had to call it off.

 

Quotable

"Do we want it to be difficult? Absolutely. That's our DNA. That's been around for a hundred-plus years. But at the same time, this is not all about difficulty, folks." - USGA executive director Mike Davis

"With my story, I'm a lot more fortunate than most that my wife does pretty well for a living. Golf, we know, is very, very expensive." - Geoffrey Sisk, who lost his status on even the Web.com Tour but qualified for his seventh U.S. Open

"Believe me, if someone shoots really low here, they won't refuse the trophy." - Lee Trevino, who shot par at the 1971 Open and won in a playoff, on concerns that scoring records will fall this week

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