Well, that didn’t take long. A day after the USGA, with great fanfare, debuted a new initiative to speed up play, Bubba Watson was part of a lengthy logjam on the first hole in the weather-delayed opening round of the U.S. Open.
Watson and playing partners Dustin Johnson and Nicolas Colsaerts, members of the first threesome off the 11th tee at 7 a.m. ET Thursday, got seven holes in before the horn sounded. Making good time ahead of the intermission, the three finished 18, only to find themselves in a 25-minute, two-group backup on No. 1.
“That’s part of the pace-of-play issue on the tour, when you get guys going out first running into players that haven’t teed off yet,” ESPN’s Paul Azinger observed.
The trio got the go-ahead from officials to practice putting on the 18th green (as long as no one pulled out a training aid, eh, Jeff Overton?) as they waited their turns. The holdup did not particularly suit Watson. The 2012 Masters champion bogeyed the first hole after hitting just a few shots in the 40 minutes of playing time since he warmed up for his second go-round.
“This might be the toughest way for [Watson] to restart,” noted Dottie Pepper, back on the course with ESPN after a brief sabbatical from her former broadcasting duties with NBC and Golf Channel. “A staccato sort of momentum is not good for a guy who’s really antsy and kind of jittery to begin with.”
After the USGA introduced its “While We’re Young” campaign, Annika Sorenstam, who stars in one of the lighthearted videos accompanying the initiative and playing throughout the tourney, told SB Nation the rules-maker would have an immediate chance to prove it meant business by penalizing slowpokes at Merion.
“The USGA [has] to kind of follow through because it wouldn’t look good if it was extremely slow and then you have these campaigns running this week,” Sorenstam said.
Maybe the soggy conditions were to blame, but turtles were plodding all over the course, apparently.
Pace of play here has come to a crashing halt. Phil Mickelson putted in for birdie on No. 1 at 1 pm. Teeing off at 1:54 pm on No. 4.— Brendan Prunty (@BrendanPrunty) June 13, 2013