Merion makes PGA players look human

Thanks, Merion.

You've made golf fun to watch again.

Can't tell you how much we hackers hate it when the pros make golf look as easy as bingo.

Week after week, they destroy par, golf courses, and a lot of our interest in the game.

It's monotonous - 300-yard drive, 8-iron to the green, a putt or two. Wham, bam, thank you, Sam (Snead). Pretty soon the leader board is filled with more red than Ashburn Alley.

But during this 2013 U.S. Open, to paraphrase Bobby Jones, they are playing a game with which I am familiar.

Blown three-foot putts. Shots that land in overgrown quarries. Drives that skip across suburban streets. Balls swallowed by fescue, submerged in creeks and ponds, lost on adjacent lawns.

Lee Westwood hit a wicker basket this week. He also, without the aid of the Phillies bullpen, deposited one in the grandstands. Sergio Garcia put two straight tee shots onto Golf House Road in one round, three in another. Carl Petersson was about to hit an approach shot when a mystery ball appeared and caromed off his. And Keegan Bradley drove into more trouble than Jason Peters.

After 54 holes, only four players of the 73 who made the cut were not over par, something most of us duffers can manage in one.

Some of the humbled players have complained. The greens are too fast. The pins are too tough. The rough is too high.

Boo hoo.

As Golf Channel analyst John Cook said about those gripes: "You're going to have to figure out how to play these [U.S. Open] courses. If you don't, move on and you'll get Travelers next week, where you'll shoot 20 under par."

So keep it up, Maid Merion. For all of us high-handicappers, you're making golf recognizable again.


Smoke alert

There are a lot of images that come to mind when you think of golf.

Money. Business. Martinis. Garish pants. Republicans.

Did I mention money?

But I never made the connection with golf and cigars until this week.

For some reason, there are scores of spectators at this U.S. Open - most of them in straw Panamas and golf shirts - strutting around with stogies the size of Ben Hogan's one-iron.

At times, the air smells more like 1950 than 2013.

So, what's the appeal?

Is it some sort of Mercedes for the mouth, a tobacco-filled status-symbol? Are these smokers out to offend? Do they all have a death wish?

The larger question, though, is why Open organizers decided to ban bottled water but not noxious carcinogens.


Long lines

Since many men find the LPGA Tour as dull as David Graham, it was surprising to see the makeup of the enormous line outside the Lexus tent on Saturday morning.

An overwhelmingly male crowd queued up early for what signs there promoted as a 10 a.m. autograph session with one of the women's tour's best-known figures.

That figure, it turned out, belonged to the comely Natalie Gulbis.



Giving 'Em Fitz:

U.S. Open limerick

Here in the City of Hoagies

Our Open's been laden with bogeys.

So many missed putts,

Cautious pros going nuts.

They're playing this course like old fogies.




Contact Frank Fitzpatrick at ffitzpatrick@phillynewscom. Follow on Twitter @philafitz. Read his blog, "Giving 'Em Fitz," at