ARDMORE - I noticed quite a few changes since I last set foot on the Merion Golf Club grounds back in 1981.
Back in the day, the media had to pick up the train at Villanova University just like the general public did for a ride that dropped you off at the front gate.
This time, it was a trip that took you to a special parking lot on the Haverford School grounds, where you were shuttled to Gate 4.
Security was at its best. The one bag I carried was completely emptied and check and all pockets of my clothing had to be completely emptied. I do have cell phone access, according to my badge, but it can only be used in the Media Center.
After that, it was off to get registered by the USGA in a tent that was a lot bigger than the one set up at Saucon Valley Country Club for the U.S. Women's Open.
Rain was the topic of the day here on Monday. Adam Scott, Geoffrey Sisk and Ernie Els were the only golfers who made it to the Media Center for interviews. Everyone knows that things don't actually get under way until Tiger Woods makes an appearance. He isn't scheduled to make it to the Interview Area until noon today (Tuesday). Tiger did manage to get a practice round in Monday, even though it was delayed a couple fo times by the storms.
Despite over three inches of rain last Friday and another two to three inches dumped on Merion yesterday, the United States Golf Association is confident the East Course will be ready to go on Thursday morning. The bad news is, another rainy day is expected for the first round so who knows what to expect. A backup plan that has a couple of holes on the West Course being groomed in case some on the East Course are under water were underway.
Traffic plans have already been change. The Rose Tree Park (Red Lot) parking area has been closed until further notice. All spectators are urged to park in the PPL Park (Blue Lot) area in Chester, where shuttle buses will transport spectators to Merion. Spectators can also use SEPTA (the Norristown High Speed Line, which has a stop near Merion at Ardmore Avenue or the Rosemont station of the Paoli-Thornton regional rail line, from where shuttle service will be provided).
What do the public concessions have to offer?
I checked out the prices at Spectator Square and though they seemed expensive, I didn't see much difference from those at Citizen's Bank Park or the Linc.There seems to be quite the variety so there should be something for everyone.
Among the food items, there are actually three types of hot dogs (Nathans $5, Coney Island $6 and Chicago Style $6.50) to choose from. Among the other items are Italian sausage hoagies with peppers for $6.50. Cheesesteaks, since Philadelphia is only a stones throw away, are the most expensive at $9.50.
If you are thirsty or if it gets hot and humid over the weekend, you'll want to stay hydrated. Bottled water goes for $2.50, sodas (Pepsi products) and Gatorade are $3.50. Beer and wine will also be available at $6.50 for a Budweiser, $7 for a Stella Artois, and Beringer Founder estates wine by the glass for $7.50. Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are on the list.
For those with a sweet tooth, chocolate chip cookies go for $ 2.50. Brownies, Snickers bars, chips or pretzels all go for $2 and ice cream sandwiches for $4.50.
If you're there early enough for breakfast, you can get sausage, egg and cheese sandwiches for $5, and bagels with cream cheese and cinnamon rolls for $3 each.
You can also go healthy, with fruit (bananas and oranges) at $1.50. Sliced turkey with cheddar on broche rolls and Thai chicken wraps going for $7. Veggie wraps go for $6.50. Peanut butter and jelly uncrustable's are $3 and gluten free buns are available.
Gates are open for practice rounds from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Wednesday. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday gates are open from 6 a.m. to conclusion of play. If there is a playoff on Monday, gates will open at 9:30 a.m. for a noon start.