I was a Pseudo-Member at Merion for a Day, Here's What I Saw

I was a Pseudo-Member at Merion for a Day, Here's What I Saw

The face of a bunker mostly.

I stand about 6-foot-1 and found myself in three traps on Monday afternoon I couldn't see out of. I looked straight forward, and saw a wall of sand.

Welcome to Merion Golf Club, site of the 2013 U.S. Open (June 13-16), where there's a decent chance the caddies make more than you do.

Because I'm insanely lucky and practically begged my editor, I had the good fortune to attend Open media day on Monday and play the famed East Course.

Don't know anything about Merion? It's located in Ardmore, Pa., was built in 1912, has already hosted four U.S. Opens, 17 USGA events in total, and can put out a fierce lunch spread.

There are private golf clubs, like the one around the corner from your house that you can likely sneak onto on Monday afternoons (give it a try), and then there's Merion (don't give it a try).

So rather than have you get charged with trespassing, Enrico suggested I just walk you through my day.

Free stuff is nice
When Merion puts out coffee, there aren't paper cups. You get a mug. And if you want to put your soda in some kind of plastic receptacle, you can bet the club's logo is stamped right on there.

Lunch included hand-carved turkey and roast beef (which could or could not be used on a sandwich), some sort of soup I regretfully did not sample, Caesar salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, shrimp salad, and some assorted dessert options.

Not-free stuff is still nice (and expensive)
Forget golf shirts -- which, should you attempt to purchase one in a merchandise tent during the week of tournament, will likely run you $75 to $125 dollars -- two ball markers and a yardage book set me back $46 bucks.

The course
This is what most of you are likely looking for. Merion, as unique as it is, is also a lot like any number of the GAP clubs built about a century ago. Tee boxes are just paces off greens and public roads run just yards off fairways.

Take the second and 15th holes. Ardmore Ave. runs the length of the second hole and is plainly in play off the tee (two of my playing partners put a ball on the road, and one of them just missed somebody's windshield).

And then there's the 15th, where the out-of-bounds markers are just one yard off the left side of the fairway. Apparently, 2010 U.S. Open Graeme McDowell and I have something in common: we've both sniped one right over the fence.

But what makes it unique? The thick rough (I hit any number of 8-iron gouges), the severely undulated greens, and the natural landscape. Holes 16-18 run back and forth across an old quarry that forces the player into some pretty demanding shots. It's hard to appreciate it without seeing it, so here's a view from the bottom (17 tee is up on top of the hill).

Finally, there's the history. Like the plaque in the middle of the 18th fairway, commemorating the spot from which Ben Hogan hit his famed 1-iron to make par on the 72nd hole and force a three-way playoff (which he later won), and the plaque beside the 11th tee, honoring the hole on which Bobby Jones became the first man in golf history to win the Grand Slam.

If you want more, click on the links below to read and watch how the course is prepping for the Open:

Merion's size means big changes, less revenue for U.S. Open | VIDEO: What to expect from the Open at Merion

Fell apart down the stretch (although that's pretty common on the group of holes defending-champion Webb Simpson called "maybe the toughest we've ever faced in a U.S. Open"):

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday in the season opener (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular-season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot, it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as the big man liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 minutes and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fadeaway jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guys' first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of [Hakeem] Olajuwon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).