“Hopefully, we get lucky.” – The message from Matt Shaffer, Merion’s director of golf course operations ahead of the 113th US Open. So far, luck has not been on the side of Merion, after severe thunderstorms last week and on Monday (the first Preview Day) wrecked havoc around the course.
All the talk from media, players and pundits has been about the weather, obsessing what effects it will have on the shortest US Open course since 2004.
Graeme McDowell wants ‘clear skies’, Rory McIlroy feels it will play into his hands like it did at Congressional two years ago, whilst Ernie Els said: “I don’t care if they get helicopters flying over the fairways, it’s not going to dry up.”
Everyone has a difference in opinion, but ultimately, a look at the forecast, courtesy of Accuweather, can give us some idea of what will happen at the US Open.
Day One, Thursday – A few thunderstorms, some severe. (Fair for golfing)
Precipitation: 66% likely
Thunderstorms: 100% likely
Wind Speed: 8mph
Day Two, Friday – A stray afternoon thunderstorm shower. (Good for golfing)
Precipitation: 43% likely
Thunderstorms: 31% likely
Wind Speed: 12mph
Day Two, Saturday – Mostly sunny and nice. (Excellent for golfing)
Precipitation: 2% likely
Thunderstorms: 0% likely
Wind Speed: 7mph
Day Four, Sunday – A p.m. thunderstorm shower possible. (Excellent for golfing)
Precipitation: 30% likely
Thunderstorms: 35% likely
Wind Speed: 7mph
As we can see, play is likely to be stopped on the first day, which will ultimately affect the late starters (the likes of Tiger, McIlroy, Adam Scott, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Webb Simpson) who may not complete their rounds.
More importantly, it will completely change the outlook of the US Open, at least for the first two days.
The softened fairways will help the longer hitters, whose shots will stick, whilst the greens will be slowed down and not have as much bite.
We have seen pundits’ talking up the ‘bombers’ chances a lot more than in previous months and thinking scores could go very low. Yet for all the weather will do to open up the field, the course is still tight, the rough is still long and the greens are still sloped and diminutive. As McIlroy said “It’s still pretty tight and when you hit it in the rough you are not going to make birdie from there”.
Ultimately, play could be suspended until Monday, just like at Bethpage Black in 2009, but only if there is enough of a delay today. More likely is the majority of the field will have to play more than 18 holes within the same day, which will certainly bring fatigue and mental toughness into it.