Remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea battered Merion Golf Club, this year’s historical host venue, with 3½ inches of rain on Friday. The course was closed on Saturday as USGA officials scrambled to get the course in shape with less than a week before the major championship begins on Thursday.
The 11th and 12th holes on Merion’s East course are susceptible to flooding, especially the 11th, which is apparently rebuilt every few years after storms like yesterday’s pummel it, but fear not – USGA executive director Mike Davis has really thought of everything.
Davis has had a backup plan in place just in case those holes flood and are unplayable. The USGA has prepared two holes on the nearby West course and kept them to the same standard as the championship course, according to Golf Course Management.
Merion Golf Club superintendent Arron McCurdy tells GCM that his crew has been preparing two holes on Merion’s West Course … No.s 4 and 5 … in case the par-4 11th and 12th holes are damaged by floods on the East course, which is the location for the 113th U.S. Open that begins one week from today. McCurdy confirmed that the USGA has asked Matt Shaffer, Merion’s director of golf course management, to make those two holes on the West Course ready in a worst-case scenario. The storm is supposed to impact that part of the country through this weekend.
“I’m not really concerned at this point,” says McCurdy, a 4-year member of GCSAA.”They’re calling for about 2 inches (of rain tonight and tomorrow). We already have missed a huge band of rain, so that was good.”
On Friday night, McCurdy didn’t sound as optimistic, telling GCM it was painful to watch the flooding.
“I didn’t even stay to watch it,” McCurdy says. “It was 6 inches from flooding over the top of the green. We’ve ordered six emergency loads of bunker sand and will get after it in the morning.”
“It (water) never went over the top of the green,” says McCurdy, a 4-year GCSAA member, who on Friday noted that the water came within 6 inches of the top of the famed 11 green where legend Bobby Jones capped off his U.S. Amateur triumph in 1930, securing the Grand Slam. “We did creek bank work earlier this year at 11, and it looks like it might have helped us.”
Phew! — but they aren’t in the clear yet, the forecast calls for a chance of thunderstorms on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. And I know it’s early, but currently, it’s supposed to rain on Thursday for the first round of the tournament.
Fingers crossed. Hopefully the golfing and weather gods will hold off the crappy weather because we need sun to dry things up. Of course, the weather impacts the conditions and toughness of Merion. If it stays sunny for the next eight days, then the course will firm up and play harder, but if more rain does indeed fall, then scores will be lower, but I’m told it’s playing very difficult, as you’d expect for a U.S. Open.
The championship is returning to Merion for the first time since 1981. It was thought to be outdated for a major venue in modern times, but the USGA has lengthened the course from 6,500 in 1981 to 6,994, which is still “short,” but the fairways will be tight and the rough won’t be graduated, not to mention the greens are super tricky (at least from what I remember when I played it a few years ago in the fall).
Merion was also where Lee Trevino beat Jack Nicklaus in an 18-hole playoff to capture the 1971 U.S. Open and where Ben Hogan won in 1950 (and his famous one-iron shot on no. 18). And, in 1930 Bobby Jones completed the Grand Slam when he won the U.S. Amateur.