ARDMORE, Pa. – If Merion was set up for speed on Saturday, as USGA executive director Mike Davis suggested, Sunday’s setup promises to be more of a slow and measured approach at the U.S. Open.
Early on Sunday, affable Merion head professional Scott Nye eyed the hole locations for the final lap and sighed, “that is all you want.”
That’s not to say there won’t be scoring opportunities. Players will get an early break at the par-5 second hole with officials using the forward tee for the first time this week, making the hole play about 533 yards.
Mike Davis, the USGA’s executive director, will also tempt players to drive the green at the par-4 10th hole as well, setting the tee one box forward and about 3 yards shorter than it was on Day 3 (about 277 yards).
But while the East Course has proven she will give a little bit, Merion and the USGA have also shown themselves adapt at taking.
Officials will again use the back tee at the par-4 14th hole, which is cut from what is normally the members' putting green, making the hole play about 476 yards, although it will play downwind to a front pin (eight paces on and four paces from the left edge).
Front-runner Phil Mickelson, who had 260 yards to the green for his approach on Saturday at No. 18, will be happy to see the USGA is using the forward tee at the final hole, but it will play into the wind which will shift out of the south to about 5 to 15 mph.
“We wanted to play it back, but the wind is switching into,” Davis said.
Davis had hoped to move to a forward tee at the par-4 eighth as well, making it tempting for players to try to drive the green, but decided against it.
All told, four holes are cut just three paces from an edge (Nos. 2, 4, 13 and 17) and Nye called the hole at No. 12 – 30 paces deep and just 5 paces from the right edge – “as hard as it gets.”