U.S. Open weather update: Flood warning Thurs.

U.S. Open weather update: Flood warning Thurs.

June 12, 2013, 2:00 pm
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The 11th hole at Merion. (USA Today Images)

TRAFFIC ALERT

The USGA on Wednesday announced that it will close Rose Tree Park (Red Lot) in Media, Pa. for the remainder of the 113th U.S. Open Championship at Merion Golf Club.

Spectators driving to the event will be directed from Rose Tree Park to alternate parking at the Granite Run Mall, approximately 2.9 miles away. Road signs marked "Red Lot" will be in place to direct spectators to the new location.

PPL Park (Blue Lot) in Chester, Pa. will continue to operate as scheduled. Complimentary shuttle buses will transport spectators from both lots to and from Merion Golf Club and will run continuosly from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day.

ARDMORE, Pa. - It's up to the golf gods now.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for Philadelphia, Montgomery and Delaware counties for Thursday, the first day of tournament play at the 113th U.S. Open.

The warning calls for anywhere from one to three inches of rain from Thursday morning through late Thursday night. The warning specifically draws attention to the "greatest threats for flooding," such as "small streams and creeks as well as in areas of poor drainage."

You mean like the 11th hole at Merion?

That hole - thanks to the intersection of Cobbs Creek, which runs right next to the green, and another creek downstream - has already experienced flooding twice since just last Friday. The greenside bunker on the left has had to be rebuilt each time.

USGA executive director Mike Davis said Wednesday that Merion has taken on 6 1/2 inches of rain over the last week. Practice round play had to be suspended twice on Monday as a result. As for Thursday…

"Our meteorologist is saying that he doesn't have a definite [projection for the amount of rainfall]," Davis said. "He's looking at models right now, but it could be from quarter-to-half an inch up to two-to-three inches. It really depends on - this isn't a huge, in terms of a wide front coming our way - so it depends on really what hits us or how lucky or unlucky we are.

"But there could be some really high winds with us, potentially damaging winds, even some hail. So, again, that's kind of the worst case scenario. But he is fairly certain that we are going to have some type of weather tomorrow.  But it's - let me clarify - it's going to be probably mid-afternoon or later, too. So I think tomorrow morning we're looking OK."

Although the golf course is something of an engineering marvel with regard to draining a piece of property, spectator areas surrounding the holes have turned into swamps. Actually, that might be an insult to some proud swamps.

Speaking of which, one of two free spectator parking lots - the Red Lot at Rose Tree Park in Media, Pa. - has been closed for the remainder of the U.S. Open (see sidebar for details).

And then there remains the concerns over No. 11. That green has managed to stay above water so far this week, but should the hole become unplayable, there is a contingency plan that would see players potentially open their round a mile down the road with two holes on the West Course - where they'll be warming up before - making their way to the East.

Earlier in the week, Davis labeled the chances of that happening at 10,000-to-1.

"We try to go through those scenarios, worst case, how do you handle it," he said. "A lot of times you just have to see what you're dealing with in terms of how much play do you have left? Is it dangerous to spectators? Can we get spectators here? So there's so many things that play in. And we not only make that decision, talk amongst ourselves, but we would use true professionals, whether it's police or security people or other experts.

"So I would say in that scenario we would gather all the right group together and make a decision on not only what's best for the championship and the playing of it, but for the safety of the spectators, as well."

Merion director of course management Matt Shaffer - the man in charge of both Merion's 50-member ground crew and the 180 members of the volunteer staff on hand to manage to golf course this week - was asked after Davis' press conference what the week has been like for him so far.

"I'm not bored," he said. "I get bored easy. I can assure I haven't been bored once."

He won't be Thursday either.