Live Updates from Merion, Monday, June 10

A Merion volunteer uses a five-gallon bucket to bail water out of a fairway bunker on the first hole after heavy rain on Monday morning. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)

5:39 p.m.: Golfers can reign over rain

With a heavy rain beating down on the media tent, officials said Monday evening that they didn't think a doomsday scenario would happen with the weather conquering the best golfers in the world.

"It's 10,000 to one we would have to have happen," said Mike Davis, executive director of the U.S. Golf Association. "It is maybe the best draining course I've ever seen."

The hole that was of greatest concern was the 11th, said Merion golf course superintendent Matt Shaffer, the lowest point on the course, and where where two creeks meet.

"The green has managed to stay above water," Shaffer said.

On Thursday, the USGA could reassess which holes are playable, but Davis and Tom O'Toole, vice president  of the USGA, didn't anticipate major problems.

The rain did cause a major problem at the Rose Tree Parking Area in Media near SEPTA transportation, which was closed Friday afternoon. The area was unpassable due to the weather. Officials suggested that spectators could park at the other lot  at PPL Park in Chester. Better still, they said, spectators should leave their cars at home and take public transportation the entire way.

5:35 p.m. USGA confident Merion will withstand rain

USGA executive director Mike Davis said he expects Merion to play as expected beginning Thursday for this year's U.S. Open, and that the course's ability to drain water is second to none he's seen for a non-coastal course.

Davis, in a news conference called to discuss the weather and its effect on the golf course, said the 11th hole, which is the lowest point on the course and the cause of greatest concern as it pertains to the weather, has withstood the rain well so far. The 11th green is surrounded on three sides by a creek, but Davis and director of course operations Matt Shaffer said that green has staved off the water well so far.

The landing area for drives on the 11th fairway, another low point that has seen ankle-high water today, is expected to make a full recovery as well, Shaffer said. Sand traps surrounding the 11th green -- and some other greens around the course -- that are filled with water will be in playing shape by Thursday, so long as some dry weather comes through, Shaffer added.

-- Gary Potosky

5:35 p.m. Parking lot closed Tuesday

The USGA announced Monday afternoon that a parking area in Media, the Rose Tree Park Red lot, will be closed Tuesday due to Monday's rain. No announcement about when or if it would reopen before or during the U.S. Open was made on Monday.

The USGA said spectators intending to use that lot should go to the Blue lot at PPL Park in Chester, and that those who can should use use public transit.

5:07 p.m.: Sound check

Media is waiting for a briefing in the media tent. The sound system will have to be turned up. The rain is coming down heavily now, making for a torrent of noise on the tent roof.

-- Carolyn Davis

4:20 p.m.: Rain redux

Guy Jones, 54, drove about 2 1/2 hours to get to Merion from the Delmar in southern Maryland. He got in about five hours of watching golfers practice when bad weather suspended play.

But he was content: The first person he saw, over on the 14th green, was Tiger Woods.

Jones has been following golf for about three years.

"A bunch of us decided we would quit softball and take up golf. Now, we're playing golf and softball."

He wasn't going to leave for him home just yet. The ticket was free, an extra that a friend had. And he had heard Phil Mickelson was scheduled to practice between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. By then, the on-again-off-again rain might be off again, he hoped

He was right. At about 3:30 p.m., there was an announcement that play could begin again. By 4:15 p.m., the rain was coming down hard once more.

 "People like me," said the route salesman for a uniform company, "don't usually get a chance" to see a professional golfing event, let alone the U.S. Open.

-- Carolyn Davis

3:50 p.m.: Water sport

They came from all directions, golf fans who took to foot to avoid the traffic barriers and the headaches of driving – and who often got soaked in the process.

“We’re waterlogged,” said Stephanie Saunders, a first-year law student at Drexel University, as she arrived at the golf course. She and her father, attorney Nick Chimicles, trudged a quarter mile from his law office, all of it through a downpour that drenched them from foot to waist.

The rain didn’t bother them, though, given the excitement surrounding the tournament.

“This is like Scottish sun,” Chimicles said.

They have 60 people invading their house this week, a rotating group of friends and family eager to see the Open. So it was important for father and daughter, a former marketer for Golf Digest, to check out the logistics of getting in and out, and to see what their guests could do and enjoy when they weren’t actually watching golf.

They spoke standing under a small tent near the 16th tee, the ground muddy beneath their feet. They were ready for all the company. “Now we just need the weather to cooperate,” Saunders said.

-- Jeff Gammage

3:40 p.m.: Course will reopen at 3:45

USGA announced that the course would re-open at 3:45.

3:30 p.m.: Waiting it out

At 3:01 p.m., officials suspended practice rounds at the U.S. Open due to bad weather.

By 3:15 p.m., spectators were heading toward tents to take advantage of beer, food -- and cover from the light rain that still was falling.

But they had no plans on going home, at least not right away.

Keith and Ken Kolakoski, standing along side the green of the 15th were still enjoying a day of brotherly bonding, touring the Merion Golf Club and watching some lesser known European golfers practice who still are better on the greens that the brothers.

Keith, 47, is from Vernon, N.J. Ken, 51, is from Alexandria Township, N.J. Just to make clear that their parents have a thing with the letter "K," they have a sister named Kim.

"Im playing hooky," Keith confided, not entirely wisely, since he made that admission to a reporter.  So far, he said, they had seen "the front of the course and now we're looking at the back."

The golf enthusiasts knew they would come, no matter the weather.

"This is a famous course," said Keith, who also was admiring the course's architecture.

"This is a museum to us," said Ken. "Some people like going to the Smithsonian. We like going to famous golf courses."

They planned to pass some time "spending too much money for too few souvenirs and drinking $6.50 beer, Keith said. And waiting. They had faith, not only in the maintenance workers sweeping the water off the green and into the drainage system, but in the course itself. This is the famous Merion course, after all.

 "It's a wonder of agronomy," Keith said.

Evidence of the wind and the rain: an abandoned umbrella, leaning against a Jersey barrier along the 15th green, whose fabric was blown off its metal skeleton.

-- Carolyn Davis

3:01 p.m.: Play suspended again

More heavy rains this afternoon have forced the USGA to suspend practice rounds as of 3 p.m. Play had been suspended early this morning before resuming at 11.

Tiger Woods and many other players got in some practice time on the course, and on the practice range during those four hours.

-- Gary Potosky

3:00 p.m.: As seen on TV

Johanna Bear, 15, tried tennis and ballet, but the day her father turned on the Golf Channel, she was hooked.

"It's lower intensity," she said as she stood at the 16th hole watching Argentinian golfer Estanislao Goya tee off.

Bear and her father, Greg, came from Carlisle to see a live match and maybe catch a glimpse of their favorite golfer, Brandt Snedeker.

Even though they hadn't found him, they were enjoying the action on the green.

"It's an experience," said the poised high school sophomore.

Father and daughter have played a few times together, but where they really bond over the game is on the sofa.

"In our house, it's worth noting, the golf channel is on more than any other," said Greg Bear.

 -- Kathy Boccella


2:00 p.m.: The Open: drink it in

With less-than-ideal conditions outside, a day off of work, and the area’s first U.S. Open in three decades finally underway, the question begs to be asked: what time is it acceptable to enjoy a frothy adult beverage?

“As soon as you wake up,” said Kurt Ellis, 68.

“As soon as the beer is a-flowing,” said his friend, Jim Lancing, 57.

For the record, concessions stands here don’t start serving beer or wine until 10:30 a.m. But around 11:00 a.m., Ellis and Lancing were sipping on brews as practice groups passed by.

Leroy Bachert, 42, a firefighter from Allentown, said he wished the stands would start serving earlier. As he walked off, beer in hand, to follow a practice group along the course, he outlined an unsuspected motivation for offering morning drinks: economics.

“I’m trying to stimulate the American dollar!” he declared.

-- Chris Palmer

1:44 p.m.: Backyard pay dirt

Ka-ching. That's the sound a golf swing makes for Haverford Twp. residents who live blocks from the Merion golf course on or off of Ardmore Avenue.

Lauren Driscoll was standing on the corner of Ardmore Ave. and Maple Shade Road, holding an umbrella and a white board that points the way to "parking." At her grandmother's house, where her mother grew up.

In 1981, when the U.S. Open last was held at Merion, Driscoll's "granny" let people park in the yard for $5 a day. More than 30 years later, Driscoll is charging $30 daily or $150 for a weekly pass.

"I'm just looking to make a little extra money," said Driscoll, who plans to attend nearby Harcum College in the fall.

I don't know how much longer I'm going to stand out here. It seems like a lot of people are leaving."

About 10 cars were parked in her grandmother's back yard as of 1:30.

Driscoll has taken the income potential seriously, following her father's advice to put leaflets on the windshields of cars parked near golf courses in the area. She's made about $650 so far, with $180 coming from drive-ups today.

That's good for Driscoll and good for Granny. She gets a 50-50 split for letting her back yard be a parking lot.

-- Carolyn Davis

1:15 p.m.: Getting lucky

Perched in the grandstand near the 18th hole, munching on a wrap, Meghan McCusker and Hannah Buckley, both 23, peered across the course where a just-barely-visible Tiger Woods could be seen taking a shot on the 14th hole.

They're casual fans of golf, they said -- and they were at the Open entirely by the luck of the draw. They'd entered a putting contest hosted by 93.3 WMMR. For every putt they sunk, their name was entered into a drawing. The prize? Coveted tickets to the course at Merion.

No one had stopped by the 18th hole yet -- most of those taking practice shots had either started at the 1st hole (with Tiger drawing crowds during a solitary practice further down the course). For McCusker, the real draw wasn't Tiger, but 2012 Masters winner Bubba Watson.

"I don't have any reason why I like him -- I just do," she said, laughing.

 -- Aubrey Whelan

Cancellation policy

The most recent weather reports predict dry conditions at Merion until the late afternoon, but if inclement weather suspends play again soon, the USGA does have a cancellation policy for spectators. What that policy is, though, has yet to be announced.

Officials here said they wouldn’t announce that policy until conditions require them to. Under USGA ticket policy, if fewer that four cumulative hours of play are conducted, the USGA could refund patrons or allow entrance to a subsequent day’s play at the organization’s discretion.

If the weather holds, Monday’s practice round should exceed four hours of play, but Tuesday and Thursday could also be affected by rain.

After play resumed at 11 a.m. most players resumed their practice rounds. Tiger Woods drew large galleries and full grandstands. Spectators could also watch players like Martin Kaymer, Keegan Bradley Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson practice the course.

Graveled paths around the course have weathered the rain well, though conditions can get soggier on the turf and dirt.

-- Zach Helfand


1:08 p.m.: Lexus dreams

Zach Alfred-Levow should have been sitting in class at Welsh Valley Middle School but instead he was trying to win a Lexus for his aunt, Judy Kremer, at the Lexus Hole-in-One Challenge.

"I love golf and I love my nephew," said Kremer, who lives in Absecon. "I bought these tickets a year ago so I'm so excited."

So was Zach, 14, who started playing golf last year, his love of the game nurtured by his grandfather who used to let him drive the golf cart when he played.

But could he make a hole in one?

"I'll be happy if I make it on the fairway,"  said Zach.

As he got closer to the simulated replica of Merion's 126 yard, three-par 13th hole, even that seemed daunting. "I've never hit more than 90 yards," he said.

Then another obstacle.

"You have to be 18 to win," said the attendant. There went his aunt's Lexus. But he could still play even though he wouldn't be able the luxury car.

As he teed up, his aunt, who doesn't play but likes to watch matches on TV, cheered him on.

"He's a great athlete," she said, noting that he also plays ice hockey, baseball and tennis.

Then Zach swung and came up about 250 feet short.

"This is a hard course," he said.

-- Kathy Boccella

12:30 p.m.: Scenes from Suburban Square

This Ardmore shopping area is only a 15- or 20-minute walk to the Merion Golf. But so far, you'd have to look close to see the connection.

You'd have to go in the Paper Source store to see the small, but purposeful, display of golf gifts, including "The Miniature Book of Miniature Golf" or the "Unputtable Putting Gag." The small handmade sign that says "Paper Source Welcomes U.S.Open" shows this isn't just any old Father's Day display.

Manager Ayalet Mittelman didn't think the golf tournament would have much impact on her store -- no notices were sent to retailers from management or the township -- though she was hoping it might bring in a few customers.

And there will be no future impact, either. Mittelman is due in November with her and her husband's first baby. But it will be no Tiger, no newborn Mickelson Mittelman, It's a girl.

Said Ayalet: "Tigress, maybe."

To see another example of the blocks that bind Suburban Square to the U.S. Open, you can find Pete Lockhart, who works in an office building at the square, standing near the Starbucks coffeehouse, taking practice swings with a large umbrella -- the kind people take to watch golf in the rain. Put a golf head the umbrella, he says, and he'll putt with it.

Lockhart is talking to a friend, Mike Spatacco, who's sitting outside at a table during a lull in the sprinkles. Spatacco shows Lockhart a photo he just got on his cell phone, taken by his son's cousin, who caddies at Merion.

"That's the sixth hole," Spatacco says to his friend. "It's underwater."

Lockhart doesn't care. The Wynnewood resident has tickets for the practice round today, and friends coming in from New York to watch it with him. So in a minute or two he leaves to walk there. He's excited the top tourney in the country is in his neighborhood.

"If you're a golf fan, there's nothing better," he says

-- Carolyn Davis

12:15 p.m.: Getting around

Getting around a golf course in the rain is already a grim, muddy task. It's even harder when you're on wheels -- and so organizers here at Merion have set up several disabled services tents for attendees who use wheelchairs or have limited mobility.

There are three holes on the course with seating for the disabled -- Holes 2, 13 and 15 -- and the disabled services team has set up vans and shuttles for those who need help getting around the course. Near the merchandise tent, there's a fleet of mobility scooters that patrons can rent and reserve.

The best advice for trying to get around today's waterlogged course?

"Stay on the paved roads," said disability services volunteer Anne Dannenberg.

Mobility today is difficult for anyone with a set of wheels, including parents with young children in strollers. Katie Thompson, of Ardmore, was on the course with her 18-month-old and 4-year-old and said she'd had some difficulty navigating stairs and muddy paths with the family stroller -- and that stroller- and wheelchair-accessible paths hadn't been well-marked.

"These are first-world problems, though," she said, laughing. "It's nice to get out and see the community thriving -- the neighborhood has never looked better."

 -- Aubrey Whelan

12:00 p.m.: Tiger prowls the course

Along the 14th hole at around 11:00 a.m., the murmurs began to crescendo.

Is that Tiger? people wondered aloud, squinting at the tee box a few hundred yards away.

Men put sons on their shoulders. Cameras were suddenly whipped out of pockets. And sure enough, Tiger Woods’ practice round had begun.

“Grip it and rip it, kid!” one man yelled, as Tiger walked to hit his second shot.

Two police officers accompanied Woods as he strolled up the fairway.

The crowd swelled as he approached his ball. He then hurled three shots from the same spot toward the green.

“Boom!” a man exclaimed when the third was lofted in the air.

Woods then made his way to the green, with a crowd several people deep following on each side of the hole.

“To watch Tiger Woods is just the coolest thing,” said Martha Custer, 45, from Upper Gwynedd, as he teed off on the next hole.

Her friend, Betty Dittert, 64, from West Chester, only had one complaint.

“We want to be closer,” she said.

-- Chris Palmer

11:45 a.m.: Rolling in from Chester

Car after car rolled into the satellite parking lot in Chester at mid-morning, their occupants quickly boarding buses for the 19-mile shuttle trip to the course. The skies were gray but holding. PPL Park, home of Union soccer, offered a majestic backdrop.

"Let's get to the party!" one woman cried, heading toward a bus.

Children ran through soggy lawns to be first.

"Need passes today, buddy?" A scalper asked.

Golf fans Graeme Macdonald and his wife Natasha had come all the way from Scotland - to visit family. But when they realized the Open would be played during their stay, they had to get tickets.  They pushed baby Luca in a stroller, while Natasha's dad, Alex Galavodas, walked beside.

"I hear the practice rounds are a little more relaxed," Graeme said.

People glanced skyward as they headed toward the shuttles, checking the clouds.

"I thought it might clear," said Joe Dziedzic, who had been reading and watching the weather reports all morning. The rains would determine how long he and his family, wife Moira, 11-year-old daughter Emma and 8-year-son Ryan, stayed for Monday's practice round.

Joe and Moira wanted to soak up the Open atmosphere, enjoy the beauty of the course, and buy a few souvenirs with official Merion logos.

"If we see a golfer or two, that would be a bonus," Joe said.

 -- Jeff Gammage

11:40 a.m.: Tiger sighting

At age 13, Brian Cardace has already been to seven U.S. Open championships – so he’s not shy about either voicing his opinions (such as the Merion course is “good,” but D.C.’s Congressional is better) or chatting up a favored golfer.

But Brian had nothing to say this morning at the 15th hole as Tiger Woods strolled past in a bright white shirt and a white hat.

“Wish him good luck,” his dad, 43-year-old Victor Cardace of New Jersey’s Hunterdon County, nudged him.

“No, I did that yesterday,” replied the son, who’d already seen the world’s winningest golfer at Merion on Sunday, when he also struck up a conversation with his favorite golfer on the tour, Rickie Fowler. The Cardaces are regular attendees at major tournaments thanks to Brian’s mom, who works in accounting for the U.S. Golf Association.

Other fans weren’t so nonchalant about the early Tiger sightings at Merion, as a couple of hundred attendees crowded around the 15th to watch Woods hits several long drives and then work on his putting.

The reaction to Woods’ early strokes were mixed – “that’s a squirter,” Victor Cardace rated one of Woods’ shots – and while Bill Coleman of Dresher paid close attention to the golfing great, his 8-year-old twins Sophia and Bianca looked bored out of their minds by the non-miniature version of the sport.

-- Kathy Boccella

11:30 a.m. Els: Scores will be low

Forget about Merion "bearing its teeth," said two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, who said the rain from Friday and today make it impossible to get the course dried out in time for this week's U.S. Open.

"Sorry, but you're not going to see a firm U.S. Open this year," said Els, the reigning British Open champion. "They could put helicopters overhead, they're not going to get the course dry it out. You're going to see more birdies than ever.

"This is the U.S. Open you get on run -- you can make some 3's. And 3's are not normally affiliated with the U.S. Open."

Having said that, Els remains a big fan of Merion and hopes the course holds up well desite the wet conditions.

"There's still a very strong finish, some very strong par-4's, and the par-3's are very tough," Els said. "And the rough is as bad as I've seen it. You go in there, you advance it 125, 145 yards. If you can advance it."

-- Gary Potosky

10:55 a.m.: Inside the merchandise tent

The merchandise tent here at the U.S. Open is an exercise in how the other half lives. Ralph Lauren is the official merchandise sponsor, which means that waterlogged spectators searching for a reasonably-priced rain jacket can choose between $85 zip-ups and $155 pullovers, all of which are, of course, impeccably tailored.

The merchandise tent itself is immense, with carpeted floors and attendants sporting bright polos. Essentially anything that can be emblazoned with a U.S. Open logo has been emblazoned with it, from iPhone cases to shot glasses to "oversized golf balls." There's a children's section, too, with tiny Ralph Lauren polos and a slew of kids' books on golf, including one called "The ABCs of Golf" ("'F' is for Flagstick").

One thing you will not find in the merchandise tent is anything cheap.

"If you're looking for a bargain, you're in the wrong place," an attendant said, laughing.

-- Aubrey Whelan

10:50 a.m. Practice to resume at Merion

The USGA announced that the golf course, which was closed this morning due to heavy rains, will be open at 11 a.m. at which time many of the players are expected to resume their on-course preparation for the tournament.

-- Gary Potosky

10:45 a.m. Masters champ prepares for Merion

Adam Scott has played Merion a few times, so he feels like he's in good shape as the U.S. Open gets started on Thursday. Looking for his second straight major title, Scott hasn't played many tournaments since his Masters victory in April.

Scott played two rounds at Merion about three weeks ago, he said, and he played it last week again. He's been in town since Friday.  Plus, he's leaning on some local knowledge from 2009 Walker Cup captain and longtime Merion member Buddy Marucci, among others.

"I'm just picking their brains a bit, but mostly it's Stevie (Williams, Scott's caddie) and myself talking about it, so we're all on the same page," said Scott, who said he's been studying the yardage books closely. He said at a course like Merion, with its many blind tee shots and approach shots,  local knowedge is especially important.

Scott said he bought a poster of Ben Hogan's famous 1-iron shot at the Merion pro shop, and that he plans to hand it behind his desk at his house.

-- Gary Potosky

10:30 a.m.: Fans await players

The ground squished beneath the feet of soggy spectators at Merion on Monday morning, as the early rainfall subsided and allowed fans to walk the course.

By 10:30 a.m., however, the players scheduled for practice rounds were still inside, leaving some fans slightly bummed out.

“I’d at least like to see someone play a hole,” said Mike Horn, 34, who flew up from Clearwater, Fla. and only had tickets for Monday. “I couldn’t care less who it is.”

Horn and his brother, John Horn, 36, from Drexel Hill, were wringing out their socks in the bleachers overlooking the 18th green. They had umbrellas in hand, and were hopeful that the rain would stay away long enough to let them walk the course and catch some action.

Bob Biehler, 57, and Phil Potter, 58, drove from Toms River, N.J., to watch Monday’s practice round, but Monday morning they were relegated to eating hot dogs in the parking lot that has been transformed into a concession area.

They said they’d be upset if they can’t see anyone play today. But Potter, sitting in his lawn chair, said they still had reason to be thankful.

“Hey, we’re here,” he said. “We’re not at work. How can we complain?”

-Chris Palmer

10 a.m.: Rain slows, green prep begins

The rain has slowed to a drizzle at Merion, so groundskeepers are back on the course preparing the greens for the practice rounds. Teams of workers are raking sand traps, pacing across putting greens and generally attempting to make conditions on the course slightly less waterlogged.

Mike Kachurak, an assistant supervisor at Merion, pulled a machine that looked something like a man-powered steamroller behind him across the grass. The machine is called a waterhog, he said, and it's used to soak up excess water after downpours like this morning's.

The top priority this morning is to make sure Hole 11, which is particularly prone to flooding, doesn't do just that, he said. For the players, though, the rain may prove a blessing in disguise, Kachurak said -- it's actually easier to play golf after a storm.

"It makes the course softer, more receptive," he said.

- Aubrey Whelan

9:45 a.m.: The field is filled out

The U.S. Golf Association filled out the field Monday for this week's U.S. Open by adding one fully exempt player and five alternates from last week's sectional qualifying to complete the 156-player lineup.

PGA Tour player Kyle Stanley earned his exemption for being in the top 60 of the Official World Golf Ranking as of Monday. Stanley, 25, of Gig Harbor, Wash., saw Merion in 2005 when he competed in the U.S. Amateur. This will be his fourth appearance in the Open.

The USGA held six spots in the field for anyone who moved into the top 60 of the latest rankings. Since Stanley was the only player to get in, five alternates were added. They are:

Mike Weir of Canada, first alternate from the Columbus, Ohio, qualifier.

Harold Varner III of Gastonia, N.C., first alternate from the Rockville, Md., qualifier.

Ryan Palmer of Colleyville, Texas, first alternate from the Dallas qualifier.

Ryan Yip of Indio, Calif., first alternate from the Springfield, Ohio.

Rikard Karlberg of Sweden, first alternate from the London international qualifier.

The field for the Open now includes 76 full exempt players and 80 from sectional qualifying.

Brandon Matthews, a sophomore-to-be at Temple, did not get the call Monday but remains on the alternate list after winning first alternate honors at the Purchase, N.Y., qualifier.

Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, is playing in his 13th U.S. Open. Palmer is competing in his fourth and Karlberg in his second.

Varner and Yip are playing in their first Opens. Yip, who is originally from Canada, competed in the 2005 U.S. Amateur at Merion and made it to the quarterfinals.

 -Joe Juliano

9:15 a.m.: Security is tight; a reporter's tale.

I know next to nothing about golf. I have never been on a golf course, never watched more than a few minutes of a tournament on TV and never swung a 9-iron (I do, however, play a mean game of putt-putt). So I hopped on the shuttle at Rose Tree Park this morning with what you could charitably call a vague sense of the day ahead.

Here is the first thing I learned about golf courses: Security, at least here at the U.S. Open, is tight. I have had an easier time getting past the TSA than I had getting onto the course at Merion, which is, of course, a credit to the USGA.

I don't have a printer at home. I tell people it's because I am ecologically conscious, but really it's because I don't know how to set a printer up, and so I generally get through media events that require printed-out press credentials by either downloading PDFs onto my phone or begging coworkers to print things for me. I chose the former option for today's event, which would have worked out just fine had cell phones been allowed past the security check-point, which they most definitely are not.

Spectators go through two checkpoints before they can get onto the course at Merion. The first is where they search your bags, send you through a metal detector, wand you down again just in case and finally send you on your way. The second is the actual gate, where they scan your ticket or press credentials. This presented a bit of a Catch-22: My press credentials were saved on a PDF on my phone. I couldn't get through security with the phone, but I couldn't get past the second gate without it. Security personnel told me I could drop it off at the "disallowed items" tent and pick it up at the end of the day.

Desperate, I made several increasingly frazzled entreaties to various members of the security team. Despite my natural charm and grace, these were all denied -- a further credit to the USGA, which has clearly trained its security personnel to resist the wiles of sleep-deprived female reporters even as those reporters appear to be teetering on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

On my way back to the disallowed items tent to call my editors, it started to pour. It was the kind of torrential rain that shows up in movies after the main character says something like "Well, I don't think things can get any worse." Naturally, I did not have an umbrella, so a sympathetic security guard gave me a plastic poncho, which, naturally, I didn't know how to put on. Another point to the USGA: Its security personnel also know how to save idiot journalists from death by poncho suffocation.

I was saved, finally, by my colleague Chris Palmer, who pointed out that my PDF-ed press credentials actually indicated that I was allowed to take my cell phone in. At this point soaked entirely through, I presented my PDF triumphantly to the head of the security team, who shrugged resignedly and sent me through to the gate, phone and all. My hair was dripping wet, my shoes were full of water and there was still a 10-minute walk to the press tent, but I comforted myself with the knowledge that security guards do have hearts, that there would probably be free food in the media tent and that, by refusing to print out my press pass like a normal human being, I had likely saved a tree.

A couple twigs, at least.

- Aubrey Whelan

8:15 a.m.: Inside the media tent

The media tent at Merion might as well have its own zip code.

The enormous, warehouse like structure is equipped to hold journalists from all over the globe - stalls were marked with spots for publications from countries including Japan, Indonesia, England, New Zealand, Northern Ireland and the Philippines.

At 8 a.m., there were cameramen adjusting lenses, reporters picking up credentials, and radio people adjusting their booths in the back of the tent.

Rows of desks are set up in the middle, and six projectors at the back broadcast SportsCenter onto big screens along the front wall.

There is an interview room where players will hold press conferences. Mic check was taking place there Monday morning.

There is a food room as well, with coffee and bananas and cereal.

But more than anything else, on the morning of a torrential downpour, the tent offered shelter from the rain cascading down outside. Particularly for Inquirer reporters with tiny, flimsy umbrellas.

 - Chris Palmer

7:45 a.m. Early birds on the shuttle

It was barely light out, but the U.S. Open shuttle at Rose Tree Park in Media was entirely full - with both volunteers and spectators alike.

Michael Doviak, an Old Dominion University statistics professor from Norfolk, Va., took a seat on the bus for what would be his fourth Open. (His favorite Open so far was the 1974 tournament, where he watched Arnold Palmer tee off on what he called an extraordinarily difficult course in Westchester County, N.Y.)

Doviak, who's originally from Mount Carmel, Pa., plays golf three to four times a week and started golfing when he was 12.

"It's a very special event - almost a once in a lifetime event for Philadelphia," he said. "I've always wanted to see this place - and this is my chance."

In the seat ahead of him, John McComb, an IT professional from West Chester, sported the distinctive green and white striped polo of a U.S. Open volunteer. He was set to be stationed on the third hole Monday as a marshal - quieting the crowd at crucial moments, working the rope lines and chasing down loose balls.

Around him, spectators and volunteers swapped theories about the forthcoming tournament. Many were excited to see a course they said was generally "impossible" to get into - and interested to see how the pros fared on Merion's famously compact greens.

"If it rains, they're going to murder this course," one man said. And as they exited the bus, the first drops of an early-morning thunderstorm began to fall.

- Aubrey Whelan

6:45 a.m.: Lightning delays Tiger's start

The crowd was building around the first tee: Tiger Woods was set to tee off for his practice round at 6:45 a.m.

And then ... lightning.

The flurry of activity that came with the official start of U.S. Open week at Merion Golf Club ground to a halt this morning as a bullhorn sounded seconds after the first lightning strike.

The weather - with expected downpours - delayed Woods' tee-off and sent the crowd scattering for cover at the nearby clubhouse.

One man was ready to use the lightning as an opportunity.

"It's our turn on," he said to a friend.

An expected 25,000 spectators are anticipated for each day of the tournament.

- Chris Palmer

Check back for continuous coverage of the start of the U.S. Open.