Thursday, June 16, 2016

Storms throw this U.S. Open into chaos

OAKMONT, Pa. -- This U.S. Open has been thrown into chaos.

After two rain delays on Thursday which were mere pestilences, delaying the action by about an hour each, the expected major thunderstorms rolled through Oakmont late in the afternoon. The players were pulled off the golf course, and the fans were permitted to take their place, walking down and through and around the fairways to find cover and leave the property. Not too long into the third weather delay, Day 1 play was halted.

Mother Nature has changed everything for this 156-player field.

On Friday morning, the 69 unfinished players in the originally intended first-round first wave will come back to finish up their Round 1. As they're wrapping up, the 78 players who were supposed to head out this afternoon will finally hit the course. They'll play their 18-hole rounds -- barring a pop-up storm that's not in the forecast right now for Friday -- and then that group will be sent out immediately afterward to kick off Round 2.

How far we get beyond that is uncertain at this point, subject to when play will be able to resume on Friday, but it's a safe bet that second round will not be completed as scheduled.

That means the second round spills over into Saturday, and that would mean the intended late-early, early-late setup of the first two days has to change.

Players who started their first rounds today will have gone off in the morning wave today, with some playing briefly late in the day on Friday, coming back on Saturday to finish.

The players who didn't see the course today will get to start sometime later in the morning or early afternoon on Friday, playing their 18 holes and getting in as many as possible before kicking off the Saturday action.

However, all of this doesn't mean we're destined for a Monday finish -- at least in regulation.

There's still time to catch up on Saturday, or even Sunday, to get back on schedule. The USGA can choose to have players go off in threesomes, or off Nos. 1 and 10, or both, for the third round. They could employ any or all of those options again, if necessary, for the final round.

No matter how the USGA gets this tournament back on schedule, there's always the possibility of a playoff. It would be an 18-hole playoff that, plausibly, would start the day after the regulation 72-hole portion ends. And, it just so happens, that this venue has a tendency to produce tight finishes. Since Ben Hogan won by six here in 1953, the U.S. Open at Oakmont was decided in a playoff twice (1962, '94) and by one shot three times (1974, '83, 2007).

Regardless of whether we have a tie about four rounds, we're going to be cutting it close for a Sunday finish. How far we might spill farther into next week is anyone's guess.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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