Dry off, tee off, repeat. That will be the mantra for golfers, fans and grounds crew members alike as Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., prepares to host the 113th U.S. Open starting Thursday.
A line of strong to severe thunderstorms rolling through the area Thursday will bring torrential rain to an already swampy East Course. In addition to potential flooding, damaging winds and frequent lightning will threaten tee time schedules throughout the day.
A potent storm system was responsible for the development of a complex of severe thunderstorms over the Ohio Valley Wednesday night. This complex was crossing southeastern Pennsylvania Thursday morning. Another round of thunderstorms are forecast for the afternoon.
Any of the storms Thursday can be locally severe with damaging wind and flooding rainfall. Seasonal warmth and an abundance of moisture will provide the fuel for the progression of these storms.
So far, June 2013 has been anomalously wet in southeastern Pennsylvania. Monday's mid-afternoon practice was suspended as a batch of heavy rain added to the 3.5 inches dumped from the remnants of Andrea last Friday. The official gauge at Philadelphia International Airport recorded 6.78 inches of rainfall since June 1. At barely halfway through the month, this is already nearly double Philadelphia's June average of 3.43 inches.
Storms on Thursday could add another 1 to 2 inches to this total. Much of this rainfall could occur in a couple of brief bursts from individual storms.
Crews have been working tirelessly to keep the course in playing condition. However, a change in the pace of play may be unavoidable.
Merion's sloped fairways will be significantly slowed by the soaked turf, potentially altering golfer's strategies for approaching the par 70 course.
Fans may recall that last year's AT&T National at Congressional on June 29th was disrupted by the violent winds accompanying a derecho that left the course littered with downed tree branches and other debris.
Anyone in attendance on Thursday should stay ahead of the weather and be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions.
Thursday's storms may be capable of downing trees along the course in addition to aggravating flooding which would require the grounds crew to clear the area before play can resume.
Should the grounds remain unobstructed, the weather will be much more favorable for play Friday and Saturday, providing the course some time to dry out. There is the risk of a passing thunderstorm Friday afternoon.
Sunday will bring the chance for an afternoon shower or thunderstorm, as contending players tee off for the championship.
Story by Heather Waldman and Edward Vallee