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Woods speaks to tough setup at Merion

Tiger Woods
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ARDMORE, Pa. – Earlier this week, Mike Davis insisted that the USGA doesn’t “sit around and talk” about what it wants the winning score to be at the U.S. Open.

Well, the top three players in the world – Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott – combined to shoot 13 over par for the first two rounds at Merion.  

So, Tiger, are you buying Davis’ comments?

“No,” he said, smiling.

McIlroy, who holds the 72-hole record at the U.S. Open (16-under 268) disagreed, however: “Not at all. At the end of the day, there’s going to be a guy lifting the trophy at the end of the week. It doesn’t matter if he’s plus-5, minus-5, plus-16.”

On Wednesday, at the USGA news conference, Davis dismissed the notion that the winning score has to be around even par. Why? Because the USGA, he said, knows it can’t ultimately control that.

That’s true, to an extent. This week the East Course at Merion was drenched by more than seven inches of rain, making the course play much softer than the USGA preferred.

Even with the soft conditions, however, the setup crew can still make a sub-7,000-yard course challenging, and they have through the first two days.

“They really tried to protect the golf course, with it being as soft as it is,” Woods said. “They’re trying to protect par.”

Most noticeably, the rough is penal (more than 6 inches in some spots). But Woods said on Friday that the most significant decision was to cut many of the hole locations in tricky spots – on top of ridges, in the back of the green where it was difficult to access with a wedge.

“Unless you played practice rounds out here and you’ve seen the golf course, you don’t realize how difficult it is,” Woods said. “Because the short holes are short, but if you miss the fairway, you can’t get the ball on the green. And the longer holes are brutal. And this is probably the stiffest set of par 3s that we ever face. And then they’ve thrown some of the pin locations in that they have, and it’s really tough.”