US Open questions for Merion


ARDMORE, Pa. – Merion Golf Club proved a terrific venue for the Walker Cup, but you walked away wondering how it will fare when the U.S. Open is played here in 2013.

The course plays short at 6,846 yards, even as a par 70, but the nature of the rough, and especially the greens, offer a stiff defense, given the right weather conditions. That will be critical. If there’s a lot of rain, like there was this past week, you could see the world’s best players setting some U.S. Open records here. The U.S. Golf Association will be tested not to take those sloping greens over the edge and into goofy golf to keep scoring from going too low.

In Sunday singles at the Walker Cup, with the greens beginning to dry out, American Cameron Tringale made five birdies over the first 12 holes in defeating Great Britain & Ireland’s Luke Goddard, 8 and 6. GB&I’s Tommy Fleetwood also made five birdies in his victory against Drew Weaver.

Rickie Fowler, who has played in two U.S. Opens, gave this answer when asked how he thought the course would hold up under U.S. Open conditions: “It's the longest 6,850 I've ever played, because all of the short holes you hit iron off the tee. ... The way the course is designed, you have a couple of those 440, 450 [yard] holes into the wind and that makes it even tougher. It definitely will be a great U.S. Open course with the greens firm and fast, there's no doubt. We kind of got a little taste of it and the greens got really firm and really quick. I mean, it was brutal. It was playing tough.”

Fowler made just one birdie in his singles victory on Sunday.

It’s no secret Merion’s a small venue, but the property felt tiny compared to other venues that have been host to U.S. Opens. With a USGA estimated 4,000 fans on the course Saturday, it was tough to get views on some holes. Yes, there will be bleachers at a U.S. Open, but it’s still difficult to imagine the course not appearing to burst at the seams with crowds limited to even 20,000.

Having said all that, Merion’s East Course is a treasure, one this generation of golf fans should see with the U.S. Open not having been played there since 1981. It will take some creativity and restraint, though, for the USGA to make sure we see Merion at its best.