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U.S. OPEN NOTES

Luke Donald still looking for major breakthrough

Graeme McDowell is worried about mud at Merion.

June 11, 2013

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ARDMORE, Pa. — Last we heard from Luke Donald, he was feasting on perfectly marbled steak after a victory in Japan yielded a shipment of 200 pounds of Miyazaki beef.

"Brought a few here this week," Donald said. "Hopefully some good protein."

Asked if the rib-eyes and filets will give him a few extra yards off the tee, Donald grinned and replied, "I wish it was that easy."

The world's former No. 1 player — he's No. 6 now after a so-so start to the year — has yet to win a major. Although the U.S. Open should play to his strengths of putting and scrambling, Donald's best finish in nine starts is a tie for 12th in 2006.

"In U.S. Opens, success usually comes from hitting a lot of fairways and greens," he said. "And my game is more from the hole backward. This year I've made more of a conscious effort to change that, to get a little bit more control, to work some things around [off the tee] by spending more time on the range.

"It hasn't [resulted in a victory] yet, but statistics will show I've improved in those areas."

Most of the field slogged through rain delays Monday at Merion. Donald got a taste for Merion last week by playing it twice.

The name is mud

Merion is wet. The course is soft. And the balls are caked in mud.

That's a problem.

Players don't think it's fair that a round can potentially become affected by the ball landing in the slop. The PGA Tour will use a lift-clean-and-place rule in certain tournaments. The USGA, however, is unlikely to bend for the U.S. Open.

"I hope they make the right call," Graeme McDowell said. "If it's picking up mud, then I think we need to lift, clean and place just for a level playing field. I'm not a guy that controls the mud ball very well. I'm a low spinner. Every time I get mud on the ball, my deviation gets quite heavy. I'm hoping they make the right call."

The Open could come down to fewest mud balls as much as birdies and bogies.

"I think mud balls are a problem. I think they're unfair," said McDowell, the 2010 Open champion at Pebble Beach. "I think golf is designed to be played from a closely mown fairway. If you hit it in that fairway you deserve a great line and a great opportunity to attack the green surface. That's the reward you get for hitting the fairway."

Mickelson goes home

Rather than practice at Merion on Tuesday under mostly sunny skies, Phil Mickelson flew home to San Diego to hit balls and attend daughter Amanda's eighth-grade graduation, reportedly scheduled for Wednesday night.

Mickelson is obviously not worried about jet lag — or sleep. His Thursday tee time is 7:11 a.m. EDT.

Jordan rules

Donald, who attended Michael Jordan's wedding in April in Palm Beach, Fla., said of the Bulls legend: "He plays 36 [holes] every day nearly. He plays way more than I do."

Snake in grass

At the beginning of the 1971 U.S. Open playoff at Merion, Lee Trevino famously pulled a rubber snake from his golf bag and tossed it to Jack Nicklaus, eliciting laughter.

Trevino won the playoff, and was asked this week what happened to the snake. "It died," Trevino joked. "It's been 42 years. Come on, man. What did they teach you in journalism school? Not about snakes, right?"

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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