ARDMORE, Pa. —
The forecast called for increasing clouds, gusts and showers Thursday morning, with stronger storms likely to arrive around noon.
“Sure, we want it firm and fast,” USGA vice president Thomas O’Toole said Wednesday. “We happen to play a sport that’s played outdoors. We received significant rain over the last week, and some tell us that we’ll have even more significant rain tomorrow. So it’s not a perfect world. It’s not a perfect game. But we take what we’re dealt with.”
Whether a golf course is big or small, soft greens typically are a recipe for low scores. Then again, Merion is not a typical golf course.
It measures 6,996 yards on the scorecard — the shortest of any major championship in nine years — and has a stretch of seven holes in the middle that are short even by yesterday’s standards. Compare those holes with the scorecard from when Ben Hogan won the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion, and four of those holes were actually longer by a few yards in Hogan’s day.
Players typically reach for the wedge to chip out of the rough around the greens at the U.S. Open. At Merion, they could be hitting wedge into the green for their second shot on at least six holes. That’s what has caused all the clamor about low scores.
And with the rain, it’s reminiscent of how Congressional was vulnerable two years ago, when Rory McIlroy shattered U.S. Open scoring records at 16-under 268.
“I’ve been reading about how many scoring records are going to be broken,” Nick Watney said. “I’ve been around here once. And I think that’s insane. It’s funny to me. People look at the yardage and think it’s going to be easy. Even if it’s soft, the greens are sloped. The rough is thick. OK, we’ll have wedges into some of the greens, but that doesn’t mean you make birdie on all those holes. There’s enough tough holes to counteract that.”