Golf Digest contributing writer David Fay grills former USGA Executive Director David Fay in the June Golf Digest about the 2005 effort to bring the U.S. Open to Merion.
After intense questioning from Fay, Fay finally admits what we all know to be the key backstory to next week: the distance issue.
I'm stating the obvious when I bring up weather. Not just the conditions during championship week but the weather leading into the Open. One only has to look back to Bethpage in 2009 and Congressional in 2011 to appreciate that plans can literally be washed away when the squeegees and tons of wood chips become the visual. It's times like that when you yearn for a retractable roof.
"If you look at the historical progression," Davis says, "in 1934 Olin Dutra won the Open at Merion at 13 over. In 1950, Hogan won at seven over. In 1971, Trevino won [forced a playoff] at even par. In 1981, David Graham was seven under. So if the course is soft, I'm thinking 14 under is the winning score this time around. But if it doesn't rain, if Matt gets it firm and fast for four straight days, then I think even par wins it."
I'd go beyond that and say that if Merion plays hard and fast--and the club's maintenance crew gets overzealous--it could stir up memories of the Massacre at Winged Foot in 1974.
Final question: Is this Open a referendum on the distance issue? Of course it is.