ARDMORE, Pa. — When Sergio Garcia arrived at the 14th tee Thursday, just his fourth hole in the first round of the U.S. Open, he stood at even par. When he left the 15th green, he was 6 over.
“The U.S. Open doesn’t give you much room,” Garcia said.
There is, indeed, no room to the left of Nos. 14 and 15 at Merion Golf Club. There is fairway, and there is Golf House Rd., one of the small streets that wind through this neighborhood. Garcia slipped as he swung his 3-wood from the tee on 14, pulled it left, and out of bounds, and it led to double bogey. He then pulled his tee shot left at No. 15, went out of bounds again, skulled a bunker shot and made a quadruple-bogey 8.
When he made the turn — which, for players who start on the back side at Merion, comes after eight holes — he was 7 over. That he finished with a 3-over 73 is somewhat remarkable. His final 10 holes included three birdies and an eagle.
“I was able to make a nice recovery, I guess, so that was nice,” Garcia said. “But obviously I put myself in a tough situation.”
Garcia is playing his first tournament in the United States since his back-and-forth with Tiger Woods last month at the Players Championship, which ended with Garcia making a reference to serving Woods fried chicken should Garcia invite him to dinner. Garcia has apologized publicly, but he heard a few heckles from fans.
“There were a couple here and there,” Garcia said. “. . . I felt the people were very nice for the whole day. I think that almost all of them were behind me and that was nice to see.”
Merion’s 10th hole is listed at just 303 yards — but with deep bunkering to the front left of the green and gnarly rough to the right. It is, USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said, “drivable by anybody in the field on any given day.”
The trouble is such, though, that most players hit iron in Thursday’s first round. Steve Stricker was an exception, ripping a 3-wood up just short of the green.
“It kind of fit my eye that I could kind of turn it up there,” Stricker said. He made a closing birdie to finish off a 71. . . .
Adam Scott, who stood at 3 under through 11 holes when play was halted because of darkness, was subjected to some rules scrutiny on his second shot on the fifth hole. USGA spokesman Joe Goode said the governing body received some phone calls and e-mails accusing Scott of grounding his club in a hazard. USGA officials conferred with both Scott and the walking official with Scott’s group, which included Woods and Rory McIlroy.
“After review, we determined that there was no breach of the rule,” Goode said.
Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium opened his third U.S. Open with three bogeys in his first five holes and seemed destined to be an afterthought in a group that included Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. But he played his final 13 holes without a bogey and added four birdies to shoot 69. “I’m relieved,” he said. . . .
Lee Westwood of England held a share of the lead late in the day when he came to the 12th, and he hit what looked to be a fine approach shot. But his ball hit the wicker basket that Merion uses instead of flags — the club’s signature — and bounced some 20 yards off the green. He made double bogey to fall from 3 under to 1 under.