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JOE BIDDLE: Merion more resembles torture chamber than golf course

How difficult is too difficult? 

I thought math beyond simple adding and subtracting was too difficult, thus I became a writer. A writer with a calculator handy, that is. 

But today we are talking about the course setup at Merion Golf Club, site of last week’s U.S. Open that crowned Justin Rose. 

The USGA was pushing the envelope between making the course difficult or making it excessively punitive. 

Once a year, the USGA reduces the best golfers in the world to mere weekend hacks. If Steve Stricker can shank shots during a round, then the rest of us need not feel too bad. 

Depending on the course, the USGA has a variety ways of allowing the course to grow fangs and turn four rounds of golf into a horror show. 

They can grow the rough taller than Nashville’s Batman building. They can make the greens slicker than the Centennial Sportsplex ice rinks. They can stick the pin placements where they invite three-putts. 

It’s the USGA’s version of a torture chamber. They stop just short of waterboarding. 

Even a nice, Midwestern Christian man like Zach Johnson dropped some bombs on the USGA, and he is a player that thrives on hitting the ball straight, piling up fairway drives and greens in regulation. 

‘Twas not so after failing to make the cut with rounds of 74 and 77, earning a quick exit. Johnson has played in 10 Opens, missing the cut five times and failing to get a top 10 finish. 

Johnson used the Golf Channel to vent. 

“I would describe the whole golf course as manipulated. It just enhances my disdain for the USGA and how it manipulates golf courses,” Johnson said. 

Merion clearly brought out the worst in the best golfers in the world. 

Of those chasing the trophy Sunday, co-leader Billy Horschel shot a 74, but won the Tacky Pants Contest hands down with his pants covered with octopi.  

Luke Donald posted a 75 and beaned a volunteer with an errant shot. Stricker’s shank came on No. 2, the same hole that took Tiger Woods eight shots to finish. 

Charl Schwartzel pumped out 78 shots and Rory McIlroy took two less after dumping it in the same water hazard twice. 

“It’s just what this tournament does to you,” McIlroy said. “At one point or another, it’s got the better of you and it definitely did this weekend.”   

Co-leader Phil Mickelson booted an ample number of opportunities to win his first Open, but settled for runner-up for the sixth time. 

“Every time I think of the U.S. Open, I just think of heartbreak,” Mickelson said. 

While most of the golfers respected the history and those who had gone before them, they sent out mixed messages after the week. 

Merion may never host another U.S. Open, given the logistical and space limitations. Some golfers won’t miss it at all. Others understand and appreciate the prominence it has in golf. 

“It’s been great to be part of it. I love the history here, but there’s so much more that goes in a U.S. Open than just golf,” said new Brentwood resident Brandt Snedeker. “Just from an infrastructure standpoint, from a fan standpoint, from a global marketing standpoint, I feel like this tournament needs more space to put on a championship in the right way.” 

I’d say it would be some time before the Open returns to Merion. It will require enough respite for all the wounds to heal. 

Sports Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time sports writer of the year in Tennessee and a 2013 inductee to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. He can be reached at



Posted on: 6/20/2013


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