Charl Schwartzel shot a 70 in the first round of the U.S. Open. (Cannon/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- Even if he does say so himself, Charl Schwartzel is pretty good at Angry Birds.
He had some unexpected time to practice the game on his iPhone, too, when the first round of the U.S. Open was delayed for three hours and 32 minutes as a thunderstorm blew through this Philadelphia suburb.
When he got back on the golf course just after noon, Schwartzel proceeded to chip in for his third straight birdie at the 15th hole. The South African, who started on the 11th hole, couldn't quite coax it home but his round of 70 nonetheless left him just three strokes off the lead.
Schwartzel said his three bogeys all came after he missed fairways. The rough at Merion is extremely thick and lush after 7 inches of rain, and he wasn't able to hit more than a 9-iron out.
"It's a lot tougher than what they say it is," the former Masters champ said of the classic layout. "There's a lot of holes that are very penalizing."
Schwartzel admitted the delay was a bit of a momentum-killer, too.
"I felt pretty good before the break," he said. "But, you know, it is what it is."
Even though Merion was wet and relatively short by modern standards at 6,996 yards, Schwartzel wasn't one of the players who expected an abundance of low rounds.
"I never thought there was going to be a lot of birdies," he said. "Even the practice rounds, it's tough. Everyone was talking about the length of it, it's short. But the holes that are short, you're hitting 5 irons on the tee. There's nothing short about it."