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« 2013 U.S. Open Second Round Comment Thread | Main | Rory's Ryder Cup Cop Lands New Gig »

How Did Merion Hold Up So Well?

Merion was soft and yet scores weren't low.

The theories range from playing long, to greens remaining firm, to hole locations in the back of greens, to local knowledge, to the difficulty of the weather and even the shaggier fairways. Or maybe all of the above?

Rickie Fowler after his opening 70:

There's some nasty rough out there. It is short on the card, and it was playing soft today, which makes it play longer.  I actually think this course plays more like a 7400 or 7500 yard golf course just because of you have the stretch from 7 through 13, besides the fact that No. 9 being a long par‑3.

Other than that, some very short holes. Which if you made those regular length, it's going to add up the scorecard closer to 7400 or 7500 yards.

Jerry Kelly explains the hole location issue:

Q.  There was soft conditions today, a little‑to‑no breeze at times, how surprising is it that 9‑under is leading right now and guys aren't going low?

    JERRY KELLY:  You saw where they put the pins, didn't you?  Every single one of them was in the back.  You can't get to them on soft greens.  So you can hit pitching wedges and irons from 80 yards, but you're not going to do that.  You're just going to knock it up there and if it spins back, it spins back.

    So it was a little deceiving thinking, oh, we had easy pins in the back back there.  No.  Those are very hard when the course is playing a little shorter.

And Ron Sirak sums up the variety of elements that made Merion so tough on day one, including the bizarre flow to the rounds for players before they were delayed for several hours.

And then there are the mechanics required to stage the Open at this golf course. Not only was there the three-and-a-half hour delay on Thursday, but the locker room and practice range are on the West Course, about a mile from the tournament East Course.

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Reader Comments (15)

To me, the course lived up to the hype. I didn't know much about it going in to the coverage today, but I loved what I saw. Just a great variety of holes and a design that smartly creates a challenge under 7000 yards. It was fun to watch.

I caught your appearance on the 19th hole and wasn't sure what to think about the narrowing of the fairways, but from what I saw, it seems to make sense. If players are hitting irons / hybrids off the tee, then the target should be smaller.

The one hole that I thought I would like, but didn't, was 13. It got boring watching just about everyone spin it back to less than 10 feet for birdie. Hopefully a different pin and better conditions make it a little more interesting going forward.
06.13.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJeff
Why don't we wait until the end of the first round before commenting on scoring? The rounds still on the course represented better scoring than the morning wave, despite drier and more spiked up greens. If by the end of tomorrow morning we have a 65 and two 66's, will we be reveling in the same hagiography?
06.13.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRES
Regarding Jerry Kelly's comment, I saw quite a few pins that weren't at the back - 1,5, 8,10,13 to name a few...
06.13.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
Hawkeye, yes, Geoff posted the pin sheet a bit down the page.
06.13.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKevin part deux
Old hockey injuries might be affecting Jerry Kelly.

Only nine of the pins were in the back half of the green, but 2, 7 10, 11,15, 16, 17 had almost no room behind the pin to spin it back, so I see the point of his complaint. (14 was also near an edge behind the hole, but players weren't going in with wedge there)/

And maybe Kelly doesn't have a dead arm, minimal spin wedge shot in his bag.
06.13.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCassie
Don't tell me ... the hooded masthead is Lee Westwood. Right?
Merion did well on day 1. Chris Berman didn't! Dear Lord, please, please, please get rid of that buffoon. If he utters one more inane comment, the 'imagine, Tonto at Merion' his worst, I'm going to toss a wedge through the tv.
06.14.2013 | Unregistered Commentermeefer
I have said this before, I spectated at the '05 Amateur and thought it was the hardest course I had ever seen, Something like 30 players shot in the '60s at Philly CC and didn't break '80 at Merion. Molinari torched it in match play, not stroke play. I personally thought that short holes are hard, the fairways are not that easy to hit, the par 3s are really hard and the long holes are nasty hard. I read that the par 5s played over par yesterday.

I kept reading about 20 under and figured my impression from '05 must have been wrong, still could be but maybe not.
The veiled lady has us all under her ether.
I love the course, but let's wait until Sunday before we say that it is not yielding record low scoring. Some of these guys are only on their third or fourth round out there.
06.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCheeks
Look at the scrambling statistics to understand Merion's defense. Bet they will be the lowest we've seen in some time. Greens are small and any miss will be a difficult up-and-down. Rough off the tee means your chances of missing the green goes way up. Even if you do well hitting fairways, still have to deal with three strong par 3's to small greens.
06.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterGolfcart
Not sure why a back hole location isn't accessible on soft greens? If you can't hit a shot that has low or no spin, then that seems like a lack of ability more than an unfair hole location. I didn't realize hole locations had to be set up to allow for ample backspin to get close. Isn't that part of a total test of golf...hitting a variety of shots??? Watching yesterday I saw a lot of players that were dropping shots right near the hole with minimal spin.
06.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
Obviously these guys are way better than me, but in the two times I played the course I had a hell of a time getting up and down and three putted multiple times, including for double bogey. There are lots of strange breaks on the greens and not many easy up and downs. It also plays a LOT longer than the yardage due to having a few very short holes, the rough devouring any missed fairway and the long par 3's.

Not sure why everyone seemed to be rooting against the course and USGA in the run-up to the Open. It's good for nobody if it goes badly.
06.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSkip
When Golf Channel did a feature on setting the pins yesterday, I thought one of the greenskeepers said they'd altered the pin placements because of the weather. Specifically, I think he said they'd moved some of them to places that drained better, which would mean mini-crowns. That would hurt.
06.14.2013 | Unregistered Commenter3foot1
Yay!...2nd-Day Pin Sheets.
Hurrah!! Merion can still hold-up against the "modern equipment".

Maybe the greens are "small" compared to where you typically play, but looking at the pin sheets they are still 50%-larger that the flat pinelands course I play in Southern New Jersey.

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