ARDMORE, Pa. — Thursday’s rain at the US Open — which comes on top of earlier rain last weekend, then more Monday — will turn Merion Golf Club into a saturated, muddy mess.
It’s not how US Golf Association officials were hoping the course would play, either inside the ropes or outside. They always prefer firm and fast conditions, which test a player’s ability to control the golf ball and be extremely precise on hard greens.
Now, with Merion being so soft, it will allow players to take dead aim at flags, because they know they’ll be able to stop the ball quickly on such receptive greens. It’s a similar scenario to two years ago at Congressional, when Jason Day finished 72 holes at 8 under par — and lost by eight shots to Rory McIlroy, who set a US Open scoring record.
I’m not predicting a new scoring record, because fairways are extremely narrow and the rough here is extremely high. There’s no graduated rough as in past US Opens. At Merion, if you miss the fairway by 5 inches or 50 feet, you’ll have a tough time finding it, and an even tougher time hacking it out.
Mike Davis, the USGA’s executive director, said Monday that this is the best-draining course he’s ever seen. Let’s hope he’s right, because the course has taken an absolute pounding in the past six days.
The biggest concern is the lowest spot on the property, the 11th green, because it sits a few feet from Cobbs Creek and has been known to flood on occasion. Knowing that, Davis had Merion’s greens superintendent maintain two holes on the West Course to US Open standards, in the worst-case scenario that the 11th and 12th holes of the East Course are not playable. Davis called that a 10,000-to-1 shot.
The weather might actually benefit those who were scheduled to tee off Thursday in the afternoon wave. Tee times will now be pushed back — play was suspended at 8:36 a.m., with only 57 of the 156 players having begun their rounds, and was expected to resume at 12:10 p.m. — so once the grounds crew gets the course playable, action will pick up exactly where it left off.
If we don’t encounter any more bad weather — the forecast starting Friday is decent — then those who had a late first-round time might not be affected much. They’ll simply start their first round on a soft course, hoping to keep the ball straight and take advantage of the conditions we’ve been given.