Merion 2013

Looks a lot more like a US Open than any recent years I can remember. Watched only some of the first round, but the course does seem to be penalizing errant shots in a more US Open way. Greens are soft, so hopefully they will firm up by the weekend so the players have to play into the correct part of the green with their short irons. It’s nice to see some long iron play or longer into a couple of the par 3’s and to see a tricky 100 yard par 3. This is not so uncommon on the great classic tracks to have that kind of diversity on the three pars.


I’ve been looking forward to this Open more than any other since 2003 (because I live right down the street from Olympia Fields) Not too often you see par 5’s playing over par… It’s going to get harder and harder… I love the balance of the course, execute on the shorter holes you can make birdie, screw up on the longer ones par is a great score… Maybe the USGA will learn something from this that you don’t need 7500 yards to have a great open… This will be the best test in a long time… Great post lag… Brandel Chamblee needs to put his foot in his mouth, that’s why he’s talking golf and not competing anymore…

Merion is showing the golfers the value of quality ball striking. Hopefully people will find watching this type of golf more interesting than bomb and gouge. I love watching pros hit 3 and 4 irons from the fairway…it really separates the good ball strikers.

A few of the Golf Channel announcers said, “Wouldn’t it be great to test today’s players by having them hit persimmons.” The other announcers nodded their heads. So the sentiment is shared, but its not taken seriously.

Apparently Phil has taken his driver out of the bag this week. So in that sense it is playing more like a persimmon track. He is probably hitting his 3 wood a similar distance to what he would be hitting a persimmon driver… but still the ball is going to be flying straighter than a balata would on mishits.

Most of the fairways have been narrowed in with rough from where they were in the past, and a couple of the flat spots that were ideal landing areas are no longer part of the fairway. It’s understandable that this has been done to protect against the bomb and gouge gear, but it does change the old school strategy of some of the right or left fairway placement. Phil had an unusually good ball striking round and found himself ontop the lead early. What we are not going to see is a guy hitting 50% of his fairways and winning this golf tournament… assuming they keep the rough up… and not cower like the Canadian Open did a couple years back and cut it on Friday.

In the persimmon era, a 6900 yard par 70 would be monster long. I think when Hogan, won the course was around 6500 and he shot 7 over par to win. There is no doubt that the modern gear is still playing a factor allowing the players to enter the green complexes with a much higher trajectory than in the past. But at least we have a golf course set up that is going to show us something much more in line with the history of major championship golf this week.

Webb Simpson

I heard that only 25% of the players got the ball on the putting surface on the par 4 fifth. This being mainly due to the approach shot from a side hill lie with the ball above one’s feet, to a green that slopes heavily right to left.
The player needs to basically cut the ball left to right into the green to get it to hold.

This is where we see a course that was designed for a higher spinning ball that could be shaped appropriately.
The requirement of playing off sidehill lies into a variety of green designs makes the game more interesting and does require more sophisticated shotmaking.

I hope these things don’t go unnoticed as the week goes on.

I have not heard any announcer mention the higher spinning balls of the past. Good point.

On the par 3 9th hole, Bubba, Dustin Johnson, and Nicholas Cosarts all had to use the drop zone. The drop zone was over 30 yards back from the green. Kind of reminds of the “Universal Drop Rule.”

Miller not too impressed with the golf today…

Should be an exciting finish tomorrow. The course is holding up nicely and I am pleased that they grew some rough to keep it interesting. The greens are awfully soft for a US Open. It would be even more interesting if the players had to feed the ball into the pins rather than just wedging past the hole and spinning them back to the pin. I still miss seeing US Open played with Balata.

I think the PGA Tour should grow rough like this every week and force these guys to figure out a way to hit the fairways. It would make them better players and more appreciative of the courses they are playing. It’s good to see OB in play this week. I’ve seen quite a few drives going out of bounds. A drive hit 30 yards off line should be out of bounds… not a wedge or short iron from light rough and another birdie putt. This is interesting golf at Merion in the modern age… and the Tour should follow the lead here. The second par five even at 604 yards is still not a 3 shot hole from tee to green for a lot of the guys.

What has been impressive is how good these guys are with their wedges, sand play, and a lot of putts are going in. While the greens might be tricky in spots, I am not seeing the typical treachery on the putting surfaces of past US Opens other than #5.

It certainly is weeding out the two dimensional bomb and gouge players… which is refreshing.

Look forward to an exciting Sunday.

I would love to play a course like that every week. I was impressed with some of the longer shots that Mickelson hit from 220+, especially on 17 and 18, he seems to be hitting it very solid and pretty straight. And two bad long iron shots by Luke Donald on that last two holes got punished. I agree about the players wedge games being very impressive.

It was exciting competition. I was disappointed to see such poor driving of the ball by these top players.

This was a classic persimmon era US Open set up. Stretched out a bit for Merion, but I suspect the greens here were not as firm as in the past so I would call it a wash.

Outside of wedge play, I’m just not that impressed by the modern players ball striking skills.

The Masters this year saw much better clutch striking down the stretch particularly by Cabrera… but Augusta is a lot more wide open off the tee and a much different style of golf.

Congrats to Rose!
Rose came out on top because he played better than the other guys, finishing things up down the stretch. Clutch irons into 17 and 18 won the event for him under the gun.

What did we learn?

A 6800 yard golf course is too much for today’s pros to handle if they grow some rough on a classic championship layout. Balls going out of bounds, missing greens on the wrong side etc. Regardless, competition is just as exciting on a shorter course with rough as is a 7400 yard wide open monster.

This also shows what a joke the event was at Congressional. That event should be stripped from the history books as a major.

Pro golf would be a lot more interesting if they played layouts like this every week.
This isn’t a win for Merion or Mike Davis, it’s a win for simply growing the rough on golf course so that players have to drive the ball into the fairway.

One of the most interesting things I noticed this week was how shaken these guys can get when there is OB that is REALLY in play. Stricker shanked his 4th shot OB after hitting his tee shot OB on the same hole. The commentators were shocked that he did it - but to me it just showed how shaken he was under the pressure having just blown one OB.

I think it illuminates even more how they normally just swing as hard as they can and go find it - because its never really in trouble. It is a shame that there is little thought about the true purity of the game these days. The powers in charge have just changed the game to accomodate taylormade et al rather than the other way around.

They try to say that the players are so much better because of fitness and whatever but I would have put Trevino against any of those dudes today. As much as they like to call phil a master with the wedges (and in some ways he is), it was his wedges that cost him the US Open today. He had some sort of wedge in his hands on 13 tee and blew it over the green leading to a bad bogey on a hole that most were making birdies on. Then on 16 he hit a terrible wedge from 120 yards that sucked all the way to the front of the green - leading to him having to chip from on the green and another bogey.

Give Trevino those two wedge shots to win the open by a shot and see how close he puts them. Phil didn’t even have to birdie those two holes - just don’t bogey them! And I was pulling for Phil because I think he is one of the true “good guys” in the game right now. But you are a freaking professional golfer and you cant hit the green from 120 yards? twice!

Merion reminds me a lot of Mare Island where I play. You just simply have to hit it straight, and the par 3’s are just brutal. Only 1 par 5 at Mare, two at Merion. OB right on #1, right on #4, #5, #6, left on #7 right on #11, #12, #16 and #18. If you miss drives 30 yards right you will be OB. Hazards and unplayable brush on nearly every hole. Greens are smaller than Merion, and very sloping, there is no way you are going to make a lot of putts because for one thing, they are not generally smooth… especially in the afternoon when I usually play. With the greens small, you also have to position the ball under the hole on a small green to have any realistic chance at birdie. If the rough was grown deep like Marion, I think Mare would be just as tough and don’t think anyone playing today would shoot under par there for 4 rounds. There was a mini tour event there a few years back… just a one rounder and 74 won the tournament. Four over par.

The point is… that challenging golf, even at the pro level, does not have to be on 7500 yard courses. This game has really gone in the wrong direction.

When I play… I look from the tee and think… what club do I need to hit off the tee so that I will hit this fairway 9 out of 10 times. That might be driver, 2 wood, 1 iron, 2 iron, 3 iron. I feel I can hit a 20 yard wide fairway with a 3 iron 90% of the time. If I have 4 iron into the green… I feel I can make a good swing and get the ball on the green. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t reach a green. If you are a decent wedge player or pitcher of the ball… one should not fear being even 50 yards out from short of a green. If you are playing good, you should covert that more often than not if you played to a good position short of the green and to the correct side of the fairway.

At the professional level… the pros should be held to a much higher standard… and having a premium on straight driving of the golf ball should be a given. There is nothing wrong with having this expectation… especially with the money they are playing for these days.

At Merion this week, a player proved one could hit all 18 greens out there. This isn’t Hogan or even David Graham for that matter. This was the shortest course these guys are going to play all year. Maybe for a decade. Par was a quality respectable score. I don’t think a pro should feel like he has to go out and shoot 65 every round to win a tournament. This was refreshing to see, and I hope it gets a few more people thinking about the future of the game.

Here is a link to Dan Jenkins article on David Graham’s win in 1981. … /index.htm

The Von taught Mr Graham how to play bunker shots. Mr Graham would be in the top 3 bunker players i have ever seen, just stunning.
I played with him in 1983, at Kooralbyn valley in Qld Australia. He was there to see the Von and we all went out for 9 holes. The sound of his strike, was well, “heavy” is how i described it all those years ago. He just pounded that ball. The sound wasnt as explosive as Normans, but gee it was close. He was an immaculate player.

Was cool to see him sitting on the verandah on the first tee this week.


It was alot different to see ob in play on a course in a tour event, Stricker hit it ob twice on 2 the last day and I saw where Sergio hit it ob 5 times this week, including 3 times on one hole. Ive read that Calvin Peete only hit a ball ob one time in 26 years.

From its web site it looks like maybe the Open at Muirfield may reinforce the need for accuracy and ball control and again discourage bomb and gouge:-

[i]"Muirfield is widely regarded as one of the finest courses in the world. Renowned for its fairness and its challenging layout of two nines running clockwise and counter-clockwise, Muirfield is one of the great Open Championship venues. The pantheon of Muirfield champions is second to none: the likes of Harry Vardon, James Braid, Ted Ray, Walter Hagen, Henry Cotton, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo and Ernie Els have lifted the Claret Jug in East Lothian.

As it prepares to host The Open Championship for the 16th time, Muirfield has undergone some changes here and there to ensure it remains as challenging as ever to the world’s leading players. Some 158 yards have been added to the length of the course, mainly through new tees on the 2nd, 4th, 9th, 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th holes. Elsewhere some tightening of bunkers around the greens has been carried out to place a premium on accuracy of approach play.

Muirfield is still very much the same course that has tested the greats over the years and will be set up to present a stiff challenge once again from 18-21 July this year."[/i]

I talked to Al Barkow this morning who was at Merion when Trevino won, and he said he also was disappointed with the golf this week at Merion. He said today’s players don’t compete on this style of course enough to learn how to play this kind of golf. He said the players today are not as good as the players from Trevino’s era and prior going back to Hogan, Nelson, Snead. When Trevino won, he was not missing fairways or hitting shots out of bounds. He also said making two double bogeys the final round is not what you would ever have seen from a great player in the past contending to win.

What we saw at Merion is a true test of golf. A much more complete test of a player than the typical TPC PGA Tour layouts. The tour is more concerned about where to place corporate tents and parking than the golf itself.
It’s really a shame. Most major American cities have a few of these great classic gems that could be set up for proper championship competition.

While I am sure the USGA will come out and claim that the problem is not the gear and the ball and that Merion has proved that… I would still disagree. I have yet to see a player consistently drive the ball straight with a modern driver… especially under pressure on a tight layout. The drivers are too long, too light and too hard to control.

David Graham’s -7 total in 1981 looks a masterpiece compared to this year’s winning score.

I second the comments about threat of “real” OB getting in the pros head.

I’m finally coming around that older gear is the way to go. I carry a Titleist 910 D3 and a left handed persimmon driver I purchased from Louisville golf. The difference is that my Titleist driver goes a bit farther but unpredictable, while my persimmon driver is straight down the fairway very consistently and very workable if needed. Much much much easier to find the sweet spot with persimmon. I’m leaving my modern Titleist driver in my bag more and more and am starting to consider just taking it out all together. It’s just not true that modern gear performs better or is more forgiving.

Something to consider about Merion is that Hogan won there 16 months after a near fatal accident. Even with a broken body, the Hawk wasn’t intimidated by that course. The guys over the weekend seemed genuinely freaked out by the course, and it was awesome to watch how Merion broke these players.

The modern greens roll so much truer than in 1950. I would say 3 possibly 4 shots difference for a good putter.
That’s 12 to 16 shots over 4 days.

If Lefty or Rory was putting for Hogan in 1950 on today’s pristine greens… +7 becomes -5 to -9 rather quickly. But they probably putt a lot better than Hogan did… so Hogan might have been even lower.

While it’s speculation… there is no doubt that anyone is going to hole more putts on modern greens. I don’t think my estimates would be too far off.

One could flip the concept around and suppose Hogan were putting for Phil or Justin Rose on bad greens. Do they still shoot 1 and 2 over? probably shoot 15 over.