U.S. Open Ratings Up...For An East Coast Venue

NBC registered a 6.1 for the U.S. Open final round at Merion, down from last year's 6.6 at Olympic that was going to head-to-head with the NBA Finals.

For Immediate Release:

Golf Channel on NBC's Final Round coverage of the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club scored a best overnight (6.1) for an East Coast U.S. Open since 2007 at Oakmont Country Club (7.0).

Coverage peaked in the metered-market overnights at a 9.4 US Household Overnight Rating from 7-7:30 PM EST.

Golf Channel on NBC's Final Round coverage was up 20% from Rory McIlroy's win in 2011 at Congressional Country Club (5.1), which was the last East Coast U.S. Open.

ESPN scored its second-highest Thursday U.S. Open viewership.

For Immediate Release:

ESPN’s live telecast of Thursday evening’s play in the U.S. Open championship from Merion Golf Club near Philadelphia on June 13 was the second most-viewed Thursday telecast of the event ever on the network and the highest-rated since 2002.
Additionally, ESPN’s live telecast of Friday evening’s play was the highest-rated east coast venue Friday prime telecast since 2002.
Thursday’s evening telecast, which aired from 5-6:10 p.m. and 6:55-8:26 p.m. ET due to a rain delay, earned a 1.9 household coverage rating, averaging 2,209,725 viewers. The rating was the highest since ESPN earned a 2.3 for the Thursday evening telecast in 2002 and the viewership average is exceeded only by the 2,499,860 that watched in 2002.
Friday evening’s telecast, which aired from 5-8:42 p.m., earned a 2.0 household coverage rating, averaging 2,458,378 viewers, the highest rating for an east coast U.S. Open venue since ESPN had a 2.1 rating in 2002.
ESPN’s live telecast of the rain-delayed afternoon round on Thursday, which aired from noon – 3 p.m., earned a 1.2 household coverage rating, averaging 1,340,169 viewers, while the morning-afternoon session on Friday, which aired from 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., earned a 1.5 household coverage rating with an average of 1,672,526 viewers.
Throughout the U.S. Open (June 13-16), golf coverage across ESPN digital platforms – including ESPN.com, ESPN mobile Web, ScoreCenter, WatchESPN and ESPN3 – logged an average minute audience of more than 108,000. Additionally, on Thursday and Friday, live coverage of the U.S. Open on WatchESPN and ESPN3 logged 38.6 million minutes, up 64 percent.

Merion Is To America What St. Andrews Is To Scotland

At least, in the tournament sense though the architectural DNA of so many courses was inspired by Merion.

But since we are fresh from a fantastic U.S. Open, let's stick to Merion's place as the host of 18 USGA championships. I make the case in this Golf World Monday item that this is our St. Andrews and while the setup definitely had its quirks and mistakes, Merion is so good that it overshadowed any quirks. (I elaborate in detail in Golf World this week on some of the setup highs and lows.)

Until that story appears, forgive me if I wax a bit about this special place in golf. My great regret of the week will probably be that I didn't take time to just walk roads surrounding the course, where spectators leaned on fences and cheered players on. And where neighborhoods turned into block parties of folks simply celebrating the return of golf to this special place. Reader Ari, who I met this week after years of online communication, was a witness to this and posted in previous threads about the atmosphere.

Like the camaraderie that envelopes St. Andrews during the Open, otherwise sleepy streets turned into a community that we can only hope becomes a regular occurrence every 8-10 years.

Video: Phil To Mike Davis On 274-Yard 3rd: "Terrible"

Thanks to GolfChannel.com's Jay Coffin for Tweeting this video where NBC's crack audio team picking up a frank conversation between Phil Mickelson and USGA Executive Director Mike Davis after the 3rd hole, which played 274 yards into the wind.

The transcript:

"274?  That's terrible. Can't even reach it."

The hole was playing straight into the wind as forecasted.

Video: Stefani's Amazing Merion Ace!

This is just tremendous, both the shot by Shawn Stefani and the reaction in the final round at Merion:

After the round he talked about the shot:

Q.  Obviously the shot you hit, are you expecting that shot where it was going to where it would go in the hole?

SHAWN STEFANI:  Not at all.  I was just ‑‑ I was actually trying to hit the left side of the green and cut it.  And then I kind of pulled it.  I pulled it about five yards.  And the wind was kind of down off the left and it really didn't help at all.  It didn't move it to the right.

And honestly I think I've seen a bunch of balls that week kind of not kick to the right and I was really surprised to see the ball kick to the right.  And then once it did kick, it kept rolling and I was like, well this could be good.  And the fans stood up and then it kept getting closer and closer and then when it went in, I was just super excited because it's the first hole‑in‑one I've ever had in a tournament.

Q.  You've had others, but not in a tournament?

SHAWN STEFANI:  Just one other.

Q.  Which is?

SHAWN STEFANI:  I was 13 years old.  Goose Creek Country Club where I grew up playing golf on No. 16.

2013 U.S. Open Final Round Open Comment Thread

The big finale is here--well we think--and an exciting group of combatants is aligned to push third round leader Phil Mickelson.

If the weather holds and a few of the more accessible hole locations prove accessible, it should be a grand finish to a special week.

Your leaderboard and starting times.

Course setup notes and hole locations to follow after the USGA feels television partners Golf Channel/ESPN has gotten enough of an exclusive head start sharing this apparently sacred information.


Phil Leads With One More Day To Go At Magical Merion...

I've just returned from the course after a long, slow, but still compelling day of spectating at what is quickly becoming maybe my favorite championship venue west of St. Andrews. While the hole locations have been too unrelenting (more on that later) and rough is hiding too many important strategic landing areas, those setup quibbles should not overshadow what a marvelous design this is and how masterfully it's been presented from a maintenance perspective.
Read More

Video: Rogue Ball Attacks Carl Pettersson's Ball!

From an unbylined Sky report on day two of the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion.

When asked about the freak incident on the fifth, Pettersson admitted he "had no clue" as to who hit the rogue shot, which was likely to have come from the adjoining second hole.

"I was getting ready to go and pulled the club back and a ball bounced and hit my ball, so I managed to stop," he said. "I've never seen that or experienced that before.

The video:

"If somebody is going to wreck your grass, who else would you want fixing it than the USGA?"

It's day five for me at Merion and I'm still wrapping my head around entering the property through someone's backyard, and that's one of the least bizarre things about this U.S. Open.

Rick Reilly with a vintage column on the surreal scene
players have mentioned at the registration and locker room site down at the West Course.

"I'm sitting there eating breakfast this morning with some guy's kid," says Mike Weir. "He was sitting on the couch, eating, oblivious to us even being there. Their dogs are running around. The guy's wife is coming in and out. We're watching "SportsCenter" and the kid changes over to the Golf Channel. I start to say, 'Hey wait a minute, kid … ' and then I realized, oh, yeah, this is his house.

The Gravinas' backyard? It houses the giant tent that is serving as the Player Locker Room. Why can't they just use Merion's actual locker room? Because it's the size of a U-Store-It (Reason No. 117).

2013 U.S. Open Second Round Comment Thread

We're starting the day much cooler and guess what, rainy! I'm heading out to watch some golf, so enjoy the coverage.

(Click to enlarge)ESPN is on from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.

NBC covers the 3-5 p.m. slot.

The scoring is here.

Tee times here, which are all pushed back three hours.


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.