The early Friday morning restart of the 2013 U.S. Open's first round was unkind for many of the top players in the world, all of whom are still chasing the clubhouse leader, Phil Mickelson. Luke Donald, the No. 6 player in the world, went to sleep at 4-under and on top of the leaderboard.
But Donald still had Merion's toughest stretch ahead of him, the brutal five finishing holes of the East Course. I wrote on Thursday night that it was unlikely Donald could hold on and match Mickelson's first-round number, and the Englishman, who's still searching for his first major, promptly dropped a shot with a missed moderate-length par putt on No. 16. Donald added one more bogey to his card on the difficult last hole to fall one off Mickelson's pace at 2-under. He's been one of the best players in the world for three years, consistently in contention and cashing big checks. But he has struggled at the U.S. Open, which puts a premium on accuracy off the tee. Donald has always had the best short game in the world, but getting off the tee has been a problem.
The five finishing holes were also unkind to the power trio of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott. None of the three made a single birdie, and collectively, they played the stretch 7-over. Tiger started his day with a par putt on No. 11, which he steadily put in the middle of the cup. But then the struggles from Thursday resurfaced on his first full hole of the day, and he dropped a shot at No. 12. The par-3 13th was almost a must-make birdie for Tiger, as it was playing just over 100 yards with a benign pin placement receptive to spinning the ball close. Woods obliged and did make the birdie, but the next par-3, No. 17, took that shot right back.
Tiger and company had a lengthy delay on the 17th tee, waiting almost 25 minutes to make their tee shot. When he finally did fire, his ball went well left and landed in the tall fescue right above a greenside bunker. Woods could only pop it out onto the fringe, resulting in another bogey and settling at 3-over for the first round.
Adam Scott, who started the day alongside Phil Mickelson with the lowest odds, imploded coming into the house over the final seven holes. Scott carded bogeys at 12, 14 and 17 and sandwiched a disastrous double at No. 15 to drop five shots on the restart and fall to 2-over. Rory wasn't any better, bogeying three of the last four holes to finish with Woods six shots back of the lead.
The three have little time to regroup. They'll now head out at 10:41 a.m. and face the same tough stretch of finishing holes, as they start their second round on No. 11. If it goes anything like this morning, all three could be out of the tournament, and on the wrong side of the cut line, by 1 p.m. Friday.
Only five players are currently under par, and as Merion dries out, things should only get tougher. With the first round restart winding down, here's a current snapshot of the leaders and some other notables: