I’ll save my critique of USGA setups for a little later in the week — I know, the suspense! — but suffice at this point to say, Merion is fulfilling its brief admirably. Mike Davis and his cult of par-worshippers couldn’t have asked for more. Bogeys are far more plentiful than birdies; players are beginning to eye shots with that slightly haunted, nervous look; and with every hour the course stays dry, scores tick steadily skywards. There will be no 62s this week.
Mission accomplished, you might think. But the consensus among media types and players alike is that Merion may well struggle to host another major championship. [Ed. note: Though the word in the member’s pavilion is that the USGA is *begging* the club to return and in fact has already asked.]
At a little over 100 acres, the tournament site is approximately half the size of a typical major venue, meaning that even with a significant reduction in the number of paying spectators (only 26,000 will pass the gates each day), it’s struggling to accommodate everything that comes with hosting one of the sport’s flagship events.
Promotional marquees, media infrastructure, equipment vans, concessions tents: the list goes on, and on, and on. Fitting it all in has involved some astute planning and more than a handful of awkward “compromises”.
Just ask ESPN’s Rick Reilly, who penned this dispatch from the muddy front line of Merion’s battle with modernity:
“Reason No. 317 we all love Merion but won’t ever be coming back for another U.S. Open: Thomas Gravina came downstairs Thursday to find a bunch of golf pros eating muffins in his living room.
Because Merion is the size of a casserole dish, the Gravinas’ kitchen, living room, dining room and library are now the U.S. Open Player Hospitality Center, which means he can walk in his front door nearly any time of the day and find Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or some other touring pro loitering around his house.
‘I’m sitting there eating breakfast this morning with some guy’s kid,’ says Mike Weir. ‘He was sitting on the couch, eating, oblivious to us even being there. Their dogs are running around. The guy’s wife is coming in and out. We’re watching ‘SportsCenter’ and the kid changes over to the Golf Channel. I start to say, ‘Hey wait a minute, kid … ‘ and then I realized, oh, yeah, this is his house.'”
So long, Haverford?