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Continued: Simpson remembers the thrill of winning, wild scene of bird man, at US Open

  • Article by: DAN GELSTON , AP Sports Writer
  • Last update: June 11, 2013 - 5:45 PM

They're officially the biggest headache for caddies.

Sure, fans and Merion Golf Club traditionalists love the baskets. The flag sticks don't have flags, and the origin of the color-topped pins remains a mystery.

So also is the maker of the baskets. The club guards the secret so tightly that few know who crafts them.

"We'll never play anything like this," defending U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson said. "It's a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. It's just part of the tradition of Merion, part of the tradition of the club. When I was here in September they told me they were going to keep the wicker baskets and I was pretty excited about it."

While the baskets color up the course, they also stay as stationary as the sticks. Which way is the wind blowing? Might to have to try the ol' tested way of licking a finger to measure wind strength and direction. Wicker doesn't budge.

"It makes their job harder," Simpson said. "They might be a little on edge to keep their job this week. We like it because it's different. I honestly think it will make us make decisions quicker. We're sitting there a lot of times and we see one flag over here blowing that way and a flag over here blowing that way, we get confused and second guess."

It could still be tricky for Open contenders.

"You just have to commit and trust yourself, trust your caddie and trust you've got the wind right," former U.S. Open champ Rory McIlroy said.

___

HAD HIS PHIL: Phil Mickelson always knew he would be home in San Diego the day before the U.S. Open at Merion. Wet weather put him home a little early.

His daughter, Amanda, is graduating from the eighth grade on Wednesday and is a featured speaker. Mickelson left early due to rain at Merion, giving him a few days of practice in pristine weather.

He will fly back after the ceremony, in time for him to tee off at 7:11 a.m. at Merion.

Amanda is his oldest daughter. She was born the day after the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, where Mickelson carried a beeper and pledged to withdraw if his wife had gone into labor. That was the first of his record five runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open.

___

SAY UNCLE: Tiger Woods broke into a wide smile at first sight of the reporter who had a question for him.

This was no ordinary writer with a press pass.

She was Woods' niece.

Cheyenne Woods, a ringer for the day, made Woods laugh when she took a turn with the microphone.

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