COMMENTARY | Phil, you're no longer an idiot.
Your decision to leave driver in the bag offsets any questions we had about your transcontinental commute for a 7:11 am first-round tee time at the US Open at Merion Golf Club.
And your commitment to dial back your aggressive style to keep your ball in play around a penal, rain-soaked East Course at Merion is paying dividends in the form of a 3-under-par 67 and the early first-round lead.
That's a far cry from the freewheeling mentality you've carried into past US Opens, most notably the decision to hit driver on the 72nd hole at the 2006 Open at Winged Foot which led to double bogey, a bitter second place finish and your classic line, "I am such an idiot."
Sure is nice to be playing approaches from the fairways on 11 of 14 holes. And stroking birdie putts on 14 of 18 greens.
It must have been tough to play the 500-yard 18th hole with a three-wood and five-wood while your buddy Keegan Bradley was hitting driver, mid-iron but you ended up with a par.
It's also encouraging that your short game has not suffered from this new, low-key approach. Your clutch putts for par on the rugged third, fifth and sixth holes tell me that you can handle the misses that are inevitable on such a tightly pinched setup.
All those par saves remind me of your run at Winged Foot in 2006. Just don't go crazy with any heroic attempts to salvage wayward tee shots with 3-iron recoveries from the deep rough.
Your round even had some gravy, like the delicate 20-footer for birdie on the first hole, the kick-in birdie after a precise wedge to a rain-softened seventh green and then the bomb on the ninth, your 17th hole on probably your longest day of the year.
That rain delay had Merion playing about as receptive as it will all week and you took advantage. Even better, you can sleep in tomorrow morning while the afternoon wave finishes up their first rounds.
This calculated risk strategy seems to be working out. So far, so good.
Mark McLaughlin has reported on the PGA Tour for the New York Post, FoxSports.com, Greensboro News & Record, and Burlington (N.C.) Times-News. He is a past member of the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association. Follow him on Twitter @markmacduke.
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- Merion Golf Club