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Unplayable lie? No, unplayable hole: Doomsday scenario for Merion

A course worker clears water from the 16th fairway during practice for the U.S. Open golf tournament at Merion Golf Club, Monday, June 10, 2013, in Ardmore, Pa. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
A course worker clears water from the 16th fairway during practice for the U.S. Open golf tournament at Merion Golf Club, Monday, June 10, 2013, in Ardmore, Pa. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

What would be the doomsday scenario for Merion Golf Club this weekend? Forget players shooting 25 under and shattering all U.S. Open scoring records.

Unplayable lies? Try unplayable hole.

With more than four inches of rain falling on Haverford since Friday, according to the National Weather Service, and more still to come the next couple days, that scary proposition was suggested by reporters at a press conference Monday afternoon with USGA executive director Mike Davis and Merion's director of golf operations, Matt Shaffer.

Davis, for one, didn't want to entertain the idea of an unplayable hole. But as one reporter put it, "volunteers and the police officer at (Number) 11 said today that it flooded. It looked like an island green."

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  • Plan in case of flooding
  • The 367-yard par 4 is the lowest-lying hole at Merion, with a green guarded by not one but two creeks. What if it couldn't be played Thursday or Friday? Or all weekend?

    "I think in terms of a doomsday scenario, who knows if it's 10,000 to one that we would have that happen," Davis said. "But we don't anticipate that happening to the point where we're not going to be able to get the U.S. Open in or we're going to have to go to some holes on the West Course.  We think that the golf course, again, drains beautifully for a non‑coastal, non‑sandy site, it really does."

    Shaffer was confident the 11th hole and every other hole would drain quickly once the rain finally subsides.

    "Certainly, it's saturated. But the good thing down on 11 is that the water comes up fast, but it also recedes very quickly," he said. "And it's silt, so it will dry really, really quickly. We just need a little bit of sunshine."

    Sunshine isn't likely for a couple more days, with showers possible or likely through Friday afternoon, according to the NWS.

    A storm with dangerous possibilities for western Pennsylvania and the DelMarVa region Wednesday and Thursday will cause the sustained rain, Accuweather forecast.

    For now, Davis and the USGA are staying optimistic about the draining power of Merion. And they'll let Mother Nature decide how the course plays.

    "In terms of the set up, I guess let me say one thing that this golf course is not built on sand, so it's got the heavier soils. But it is maybe the best draining golf course I have ever seen," Davis said. If you walk this course you know there's hardly any flat lies at Merion. It surface drains beautifully."


    Contact Brian X. McCrone at 215-854-2267 or bmccrone@philly.com. Follow @brianxmccrone on Twitter.

    Brian X. McCrone PHILLY.COM
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