by Jeff Skinner
U.S. Open winner Justin Rose who has to be running on fumes after his whirlwind of media appearances, tops a good field of golfers on a course that will yield more birdies in a day than we saw all week at Merion. Mark Leishman won here last year with a total of fourteen under par. That’s a long way from Justin Rose’s winning score of one over.
Although the Tour has moved north from Philly, Merion was still a topic at all the morning press conferences. Rose commended the USGA for heading to such a small layout, “But I think it was a brave move for the USGA to go to Merion. I’m glad they took that move just to demonstrate, and it might be a sort of learning curve and learning lesson for golf course design in the future. It doesn’t need to be so long to make it such a challenge. I thought that was just fascinating to see how the course held up.” As far as going back to Merion, “…logistically, it was incredibly difficult…I think it would be fantastic to see it with better weather earlier in the week, to see it with a little bit of bounce in the ball, to see how that would change the way it played.”
When Rickie Fowler was asked if he thought the U.S. Open should go back to Merion he was all for it. “I liked it. As far as for a spectator standpoint it was terrible.” But he thought the course was great,” As far as playing, I loved it. “It’s a fun golf course. It’s different, it’s got a lot of different options and good variety. Obviously, you can see it was a tough test. Some of it was tricky at times. There are some long and tough holes out there.”
2007 Travelers Champion, Hunter Mahan says one of the reasons players come up to the Travelers after the Open is that this event is fun. “This is a fun golf course to play and it has a great last four holes to play, so I’m excited.” As far as the U.S. Open returning to Merion he’s another player that’s on board with that decision. “I would like it to go. The course is fine. It’s just logistically, the USGA has a really tough challenge there.” And he thinks that the USGA needn’t try so hard to toughen up Merion, “…I think the USGA learned a lot about that golf course and how it could play and how they don’t have to extend it and just let it be. You know, I think we really, as players, I think we want it to be what it is and not have the influence…it was so influenced by the USGA. I felt like it didn’t, really didn’t get to see its kind of true color there. I would love to see it come back there for sure.”
This week the players won’t have to deal with the five inch deep rough or 270 yard par threes. But they will have to shoot at some pins and pack on a bunch of birdies if they are going to be in contention on Sunday.
Like Mahan said, this is a fun tournament. From the fans to the players to the volunteers to the tour and all the folks at the Travelers there is a different spirit, a different vibe at this event. It’s fun…a lot of fun.