NBC analyst Johnny Miller believes the U.S. Open is losing its identity, but he’s hopeful firm and fast conditions will help bring back that identity when the championship is played at Merion in two weeks with a more traditional USGA setup.
Miller isn’t a fan of the graduated rough concept the U.S. Open introduced at Winged Foot in 2006.
With Merion measuring just 6,696 yards as a par 70, a more traditional setup is planned with some ultra-narrow fairways and the old-style penal rough punishing near misses. Miller said he expects some fairways to measure just 23 yards wide. If there’s graduated rough, it will be limited to just a few holes.
“When we used to have the longer rough in our era, it was really about getting the ball in the fairway,” Miller said. “The graduated rough, at Torrey Pines, even Congressional, it became more like a PGA Tour event. I think [the U.S. Open] lost its identity, personally. I don’t agree with that setup one bit.”
Miller said he loves that Merion will have a confounding mix of thick grasses in the rough.
“To me, a U.S. Open is supposed to be just the ultimate test,” Miller said. “I hope after this year at Merion they go back on short, easy holes and give a lot of rough, and maybe have the rough different on some holes. Maybe, on a par 5, where they lay it up, pinch it in with long rough, so it’s not a boring, unimportant layup. I believe that’s the way to separate yourself from the other major championships. At Torrey, they set it up like an old Andy Williams except with distance.”