Scott Michaux

Sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. | ScottMichaux.com

Michaux: A kinder Merion would be welcomed next time

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Forget the logistical nightmares.

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Justin Rose was steady in the U.S. Open. He's the first English major champ since Nick Faldo won the 1996 Masters Tournament.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Justin Rose was steady in the U.S. Open. He's the first English major champ since Nick Faldo won the 1996 Masters Tournament.

Forget the long shuttle rides for players from a range more than a mile away or the fans from closer to Delaware.

Forget the $10 million in lost revenue from limited galleries.

Forget the course’s neighbors whose lives were disrupted and backyards destroyed and in need of complete resodding.

Forget all of that and make sure that the U.S. Open returns to Merion Golf Club on a regular basis. Every 12-15 years max.

With a brutal course setup and even more ruthless hole locations, the U.S. Golf Association proved that a 6,996-yard course on 111 acres is not too small to play host to the biggest championship in American golf. Not a single player finished under par for the week. The lowest score was 67 and not the 62 some had predicted.

Merion is truly one of the best courses anywhere. It is a perfect blend of short and long, opportunity and terror. You saw more birdies than you’ll ever see in a U.S. Open. More triples, too. And a 10.

Of course, now that the USGA made its point, here’s hoping that when they come back they dial back the manipulation a little bit. Thick rough is fine – it wouldn’t be the U.S. Open without a little misery. But the severe pin positions every single day were excessive, and a 274-yard uphill par-3 into a headwind is totally unnecessary. And somebody – anybody – should be able to have a chance to birdie the 18th hole on the weekend. None did.

So please do whatever it takes to come back to Merion and ease up a bit on the sadism so both the players and fans can experience a true gem the way it’s supposed to be played.

Merion, however, wasn’t the only winner (or loser) this week.

BIRDIE: Justin Rose. Long one of golf’s most talented and classiest players, Rose played confidently at the front Sunday and his two closing pars were clutch. A worthy major champion.

BOGEY: Phil Mickelson. Hard to fault a guy who played so beautifully as leader through 18, 36, 54 and 65 holes only to be haunted by a sixth runner-up ghost at the U.S. Open, but those Sunday wedge hiccups at 13 and 15 and the early sloppy doubles shouldn’t have happened.

PAR: Hunter Mahan. The only guy in the field to post two rounds under par (consecutive 69s), Mahan’s stumble at the end shouldn’t take away from a tremendous step forward.

BIRDIE: Jason Day. The guy isn’t even 26 years old yet and he already has four career top-3 finishes at majors (three runner-ups). Get used to it. He’s going to win one soon.

BOGEY: Charl Schwartzel. It is hard to believe how thoroughly the 2011 Masters champion imploded after an opening birdie Sunday put him in share of lead. Eight-over par in eight-hole stretch from 3-10. Seriously?

PAR: Sergio Garcia. I know what you’re thinking. How can a guy who hit six balls OB (3 consecutively) get better than bogey? Other than 14th and 15th holes, which he played in 16-over for the week, he was 1-under on the rest of the course. That merits something.

BIRDIE: Ernie Els. We hadn’t been talking about the reigning British Open champ much, but his T4 bodes well for his return to Muirfield in July, where he won in 2002.

BOGEY: Steve Stricker. Looked so steady until it mattered on Sunday, then he jacked one ball OB and shanked another en route to triple bogey on the second hole. And that was that.

BIRDIE: Michael Kim. Collegiate player of the year made 13 birdies on the week and was tied for third at even par through 15 holes Saturday before slipping back to finish T17.

BOGEY: Luke Donald. Played perhaps the best golf for three days, missing numerous chances to build sizable lead. Then former world No. 1 threw up a front-nine 42 Sunday.

BIRDIE: Ben Hogan. Not even Bobby Jones, who capped his grand slam at Merion, got as much historical love as the 1950 U.S. Open winner, his 1-iron and the iconic photo of him on 18.

BOGEY: Tiger Woods. Tied for third in field through three rounds in fairways hit, yet he could make nothing happen on or around the greens. However, describing one chunked chip as “overshallowing” was a precious moment.

BIRDIE: Hideki Matsuyama. Remember the Japanese amateur who twice made cut at the Masters? He just turned pro and finished T10 in U.S. Open. For real.

BOGEY: Rory McIlroy. By Sunday, golf’s golden boy was so out of sorts he angrily bent his Nike 9-iron to resemble a “swoosh.” Company man all the way.

BOGEY: Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk. The final twosome at Olympic last year went a combined 29-over in missing the cut. So much for those trendy picks to win.

BIRDIE: Matt Shaffer. Merion’s course superintendent and staff saved what could have been a disastrous week by keeping the course playable despite more than seven inches of rain in a week.

DOUBLE: Long par 3s. There was absolutely no reason to turn three of Merion’s par 3s into brutal monsters all more than 230-yards. Mickelson was right calling it “terrible” to USGA executive director Mike Davis.

BOGEY: Pin placements. Players railed about them all week, saying they were either unreachable or always cut into 3- to 4-degree slopes. Having played to them Monday morning, they weren’t kidding.

BOGEY: Wicker baskets. First of all, those baskets on top of the pins are one of the coolest things in golf. The mistake was not having any kind of replica items available in the merchandise shop. Bad call.

BIRDIE: USGA. Bravo for taking your biggest event to a course many called obsolete because of modern equipment, sacrificing money in the process to showcase a masterpiece of American golf.

BOGEY: USGA. Next time you come back, let them play the course the way it’s supposed to be played.

BOGEY: Philly fans. Sergio said Saturday that his hecklers were “not very creative.” How do they ever expect to compete with New York if they can’t do better than that? Kudos, however, for putting up with the muck and logistical mess and supporting Merion.


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