ARDMORE, Pa. – Despite 6 ½ inches of rain in the last few days and a foreboding forecast for Thursday, USGA officials remain confident Merion can withstand whatever Mother Nature and the top 156 players in the world can throw her way.
Dry conditions on Wednesday allowed officials to cut the rough for the first time this week, to 4 inches on the longer holes and 5 inches on the shorter par 4s, and the danger of flooding on the 11th green has subsided, for now.
The par-4 11th is the lowest point on the golf course and Cobb’s Creek runs adjacent the putting surface. In an attempt to mitigate the flooding potential, Merion superintendent Matt Schaffer had the stone wall surrounding the creek lowered in recent years.
“It’s actually a surprise it hasn’t happened (flooded),” Schaffer said. “You do all these things and hope it works, but then when it does it’s rewarding.”
USGA executive director Mike Davis said despite Monday’s storms green speeds are where he wants them (between 13 and 13 ½ on the Stimpmeter) and he is confident that Thursday’s forecast provides a window to allow the first round to be completed.
“It’s not a big system so the only question is whether we get lucky and not get the worst of it or if we are unlucky,” Davis said.
Some players have already suggested the wet conditions will result in a large number of mud balls, but it seems unlikely the USGA would play preferred lies.
“It’s been a longstanding philosophical point of view not to adopt that for our championships,” said Tom O’Toole, the chair of the USGA’s championship committee. “We wouldn’t be adopting that rule this week.”
Davis said the bigger concern is the changing conditions Thursday’s front will bring. For Round 1 the winds are expected to come out of the south, while on Friday the winds are forecast to shift out of the north. If the first round is not completed on Thursday it could make play difficult for those who must complete Round 1 on Friday.