USGA executive director Mike Davis and defending U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson headlined the 2013 U.S. Open media day on Monday.
Here is a sampling of what they had to say about this year’s championship, scheduled for June 13-16 at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.:
• Merion, which will play to a par 70 and 6,996 yards, should yield a lot of birdies, Davis said: “This blend of short and long is going to be such a neat and exciting feature of this Open. There’s going to be more birdies made, trust me, at this U.S. Open than any we have seen in recent memory.”
• Wedge play likely will be one of the deciding factors this year. Simpson, who played the East Course during the 2005 U.S. Amateur staged there, said: “On the first 13 holes, there will be more wedges into these greens than most U.S. Opens … Potentially through 13 holes, if you drive it well, you can have nine wedge opportunities. I think a guy with a good wedge game and a good mind will have the advantage because you’ll have your birdie opportunities. But what I remember about Merion is that the second that you think, 'I got an easy hole, an iron and a wedge,' is the second that you probably will make a mistake.”
• On the other hand, Simpson said, “The last five (holes) are going to be some of maybe the hardest that we have ever had in the U.S. Open.” That includes four par 4s and a lengthy par-3 17th. “I don’t think there will ever be a point in this U.S. Open where somebody will have it won because the last five holes are so hard that a guy will be hanging on.”
• There are only two par 5s on the course. Interestingly, they are Nos. 2 and 4.
• Davis said that Merion will “probably be the most precise golf course we play a U.S. Open on.”
• Players will need to adjust to the blind and semi-blind shots at Merion, Davis said. He estimated that 11 of the 18 holes have that design element, whether a player cannot see the entire putting surface, or half of the flagstick, or the landing area in the fairway. “If you’re a member here and you’re playing it every day you get used to it,” Davis said. “But for players coming here for the first time, or not even the first time, that does add an element of difficulty.”
• Though the official yardage on the scorecard will be 6,996, Davis said there will be some days when the course will play “68 and change.”
• The greens are expected to run about 13 to 13 ½ on the Stimpmeter, Davis said, which is what was used during the ’05 Amateur.
• As has been the case during most of the USGA championships contested at Merion, the flagsticks will topped by the traditional wicker baskets instead of the usual flags.