- Associated Press - Thursday, June 13, 2013

ARDMORE, PA. (AP) - Play has resumed at the U.S. Open after a 3 1/2-hour delay due to a severe thunderstorm.

Players picked up where they left off shortly after noon.

The first group had completed seven holes in about two hours when the horn sounded Thursday morning. Thunder, lightning and drenching rains soon sent fans scurrying for cover.

Ian Poulter held the lead with three birdies in three holes when play was stopped.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Phil Mickelson rolled a birdie attempt 8 feet past the hole at No. 11. Steve Stricker did the same at No. 12. Bogey. Bogey.

And that wasn’t even the stormy part.

The horn blew at 8:36 a.m. Thursday, halting play after less than two hours into the first round of U.S. Open. It wasn’t raining as players and spectators left the course, but soon there were thunderclaps over the Merion Golf Club, and lightning and downpours followed.

The rain let up around 11 a.m., allowing players to return to the driving range. Officials said play would resume at 12:10 p.m. after a delay of 3 hours, 34 minutes.

Ian Poulter held the lead with three birdies in three holes as fans scurried toward the merchandize tents to wait out the storm. Four players were at 2 under.

Safety was a concern on a course that required fans to take long shuttle rides from remote parking lots. The USGA suspended transportation from three main lots to the course, although service continued for anyone who wanted to leave Merion.

At a fan zone, where a replay of the limited action was on a jumbo screen, a worker used a microphone to implore an overflow crowd to move to the merchandise tent.

“We’re not feeling safe having this many people in here,” he told them. Many folks heeded his message and moved on.

The course was already soaked with 6 1/2 inches of rain over the past week, although sunshine Tuesday and Wednesday helped to dry things out a bit. The skies were already cloudy and a breeze rustled the trees when Cliff Kresge, a Floridian ranked No. 551 in the world, hit the first tee shot of the opening round, the first of 156 players on the historic course hosting the Open for the first time in 32 years.

The marquee group originally was scheduled to begin shortly after lunchtime, but the rains pushed back the tee time for Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott _ the top three players in the world rankings _ to mid-afternoon.

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