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June 11 2013

3:44 PM

Weather alters practice schedules

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

ARDMORE, Pa. -- Webb Simpson, who is seeking to become the first man in 24 years to successfully defend his U.S. Open title, has already changed his practice schedule three times this week.

Thanks, Mother Nature. Isn't playing in a major championship hard enough without being battered by rain?

The worst came Friday when more than 3 inches fell on Merion Golf Club. The course was closed on Saturday, then reopened on Sunday before nearly 2 more inches fell on Monday. Hence, Simpson's scramble when he's trying to maintain the delicate balance of conserving energy versus preparation.

"The plan was to play nine Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and just practice Tuesday," Simpson said. "And then we went to nine Sunday, 18 Monday, nine Wednesday.  And now yesterday got rained out. I'm going to play nine today, 18 tomorrow. You've got to adapt to the weather."

Caddies like Simpson's looper, Paul Tesori, and Bones Mackay, who totes Phil Mickelson's bag, become even more important during a week like this. They'll spend hours walking the fairways and charting the greens even when their bosses aren't around.

"I'm going to play the back eight today," Simpson said. "If my caddie and I feel that we got all the work done that we need to get done, then we'll not play the back tomorrow. He's out there now. It is tough. My fifth year on TOUR only and I'm still having a time of trying to figure it out, what's best."

Those players who came to get a look at Merion over the last month -- Adam Scott, Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell, to name a few -- may have a bit of an edge. Although given the rain that has fallen and the 80 percent chance for more on Thursday, the early-birds won't have seen Merion in the same kind of conditions they'll find this week.

"I played the golf course last Wednesday, which has proved kind of invaluable now, I guess," said McDowell, adding that he flew in Monday hoping to get in 18 holes late that afternoon.

With the torrential rain, though, McDowell was out of luck. His plans to play 36 holes before the start of the championship are long gone. The 2010 U.S. Open champion is now looking at nine on Tuesday afternoon and another on Wednesday.

"I've certainly tapered back my practice schedule the next couple of days," McDowell said. "... I just feel like the golf course is going to change so much day-by-day, if we get the weather that's forecast, a little bit of dry weather."

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