AT& T National Notebook

Playing Alone, John Merrick Tries to Make the Best of It at AT&T National

Tiger Woods hosts a PGA Tour event in the D.C. area once again as some of the best golfers in the world converge at Congressional Country Club's Blue Course.
By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 4, 2009

John Merrick seems like a likable guy -- a bit reserved maybe, but certainly not temperamental. So it was odd to see both of his playing partners abandon him. First, Bubba Watson withdrew from the AT&T National because of allergies on the ninth hole of the first round. Then, yesterday on No. 10 at Congressional Country Club, Jeff Overton walked off with a bad wrist, leaving Merrick to finish his round by himself.

PGA Tour officials offered to have a player from the preceding threesome join him, but Merrick declined.

"There could have been a couple players come back to play a twosome or something, but I figured that I didn't want to mess up their games or anything," Merrick said. "It wasn't too bad. It just took a little while longer."

It was a strange sight to see as Merrick walked down the 12th fairway, joined only by his caddie, a walking scorer and the standard bearer.

After making his putt for par on No. 12, Merrick had to wait while Chris Riley, Rich Beem and Mathew Goggin teed off on the next hole. He passed the time chatting with a couple of female fans who had been following him through his round.

"I wasn't playing that great anyway, so it was just kind of like trying to have a good time," he said. "You either laugh or cry in that situation, so I just tried to make the best of it."

Although Merrick played better alone than in a group, shooting an even-par 70, his 6-over 76 on Thursday caused him to miss the cut.

'Biggest Day Ever'

Great weather, a holiday weekend and Tiger Woods in contention brought a mass of humanity to Congressional yesterday. The U.S. Open-like crowds created transportation woes, parking problems and shortages at concession stands.

"Biggest day ever, no question," tournament director Greg McLaughlin said.

Woods, who draws large galleries wherever he goes, took particular notice of how many fans turned out to watch him play.

Caddie "Stevie [Williams] and I were talking about that," Woods said. "I didn't play last year, but from what I've seen, this is very similar to the first year and the first year we had a lot of people."

Lots of people -- event organizers reported a tournament-record crowd of 46,932 -- can bring lots of problems logistically. River Road moved at a glacial speed. The public parking lots filled up by noon. The concession stands ran out of lemonade, ice cream and pretzels for a time. McLaughlin said he and his staff are taking steps to alleviate some of the transportation issues.

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