Ardmore, Pa. • After spending the morning waiting out a 3½-hour rain delay while sitting in someone’s house whose son watched TV and was pretty much oblivious to the fact the U.S. Open was being played next door, Mike Weir finally went out to the course and shortly afterward looked up to see his name atop the leaderboard.
It was nice while it lasted, which wasn’t long, with Weir needing a finishing birdie to shoot a 2-over par 72.
Playing in the group ahead of him, Utah’s other connection here at famed Merion Golf Club, Jay Don Blake, the oldest player in the 156-man field, shot a 74. Considering the 54-year-old Blake was bending over to tee off at his first Open since 2003 when they told him to wait, that’s not so shabby.
How either stacks up in the big picture — currently headed by Phil Mickelson, who shot a 67 after not arriving here until 3:30 a.m. — is uncertain. But for both Weir and Blake, Day 1 at Merion was memorable, especially since they got in their full round.
"I’m glad to get this round in," said Blake, who finished with a birdie on his final hole — No. 10. "If they don’t, then we have to come out again early tomorrow.
"That’s no fun. I had a kind of medium day. I missed about four to five short putts that kind of took some momentum from me. I made just one birdie — on the last hole. I hit a lot of good putts, but couldn’t get them to go in."
In contrast, Weir, the 2003 Masters champ, had it going early with three birdies in the first seven holes, to briefly take the lead. But he faltered badly on the front nine — bogeying four straight holes, before salvaging his day with a birdie on No. 10.
"I’m very pleased with my game," said the 43-year-old Weir, who’s getting closer to his old form after tearing the extensor tendon in his elbow in 2010. "I didn’t score great, but playing the way I did today I’m very encouraged."
So, too, was Blake, who said he took a lot of good-natured ribbing from the players on the Champions Tour about not embarrassing the old guys this week. As for his first impressions of Merion, he says it’s not at all what he expected.
"Everyone said it’s a great golf course but it’s going to be short," said Blake, who hung out with his family during the rain delay. "There’s nothing short about it. It’s pretty crazy and on the really short holes they kind of handicap you."
Still, being 4-over would seem to leave Blake in decent position to make the cut if he can put together a decent round. But he’s not thinking that way.
"I’m just trying to shoot the score I can," said Blake, whose best Open finish was a tie for 6th in 1992. "I’m not just trying to make the cut. I just have to go execute my game and hit the shots. It might not work. It might, but I’m going to see if I can shoot under par tomorrow."
Weir won’t make any promises, either. He’s just happy to be playing at a competitive level again.
"My ball striking is getting much better,’’ said Weir, who didn’t learn he had made the field — as an alternate through qualifying — until last Sunday in Memphis. "I have strength in my arm again and I’m feeling good.
"Yes, I saw my name up there. I haven’t seen it in a while. Hopefully I can get back there."
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