Merion May be Moist this Week

Already slammed over the weekend by remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea, which deluged the course with 3 inches of rain, Merion Golf Club may be experiencing even more wet weather this week.

On Monday, practicing players - including favorite Tiger Woods - were forced to leave the course before 7:00 a.m. when lightning and heavy rain rolled through the club's East Course in Ardmore, Pa. They returned at 11:00 a.m. to the U.S. Open site.

Scattered thunderstorms are forecast for the practice round Tuesday, with evening thunderstorms and a 50 percent of rain on Wednesday.

In anticipation of poor weather in mid-June, officials from Merion and the United States Golf Association made contingency plans early on. Of particular concern is East's par-4 11th hole, which has a creek crossing in front of the green and is at a low point of the course.

USGA executive director Mike Davis put a plan in place months ago to use two holes from the West course - located a mile away and involving shuttling players to and fro - in case East's 11th and parts of No. 12 were deemed unplayable.

If the holes on West are needed, these two par-4s would be used at the start of a round, with the remaining 16 at East used to complete an 18-hole layout. That situation wouldn't be ideal, but West is where the player's locker room is located and contains dining facilities and a practice area.

"I'm giving you the doomsday of all doomsday scenarios,'' Davis said in the June issue of Golf Digest. "We wouldn't use a hole from the West Course unless we absolutely otherwise couldn't get this championship in - if we had a stream that wouldn't recede for several days.''

So far, that juncture of East has withstood the excess water from the recent storm. "The work that Merion Golf Club had done on the banks of the nearby creek to minimize potential flooding worked well, and underscores how this area of the course could survive the worst of storms,'' said Joe Goode, the USGA's managing director of communications.

But Merion golf course superintendent Arron McCurdy was less sanguine, telling the Golf Course Superintendent Association of America's website last Friday night, "(The water from the creek) was 6 inches from flooding over the top of the green," McCurdy said in GCM's blog. "We ordered six emergency loads of bunker sand and will get after it in the morning."

Not helping is high humidity - which makes it difficult for surface water to drain - and a first-round forecast on Thursday of temperatures in the high-60s and a 70 percent chance of rain, with accompanying thunder.

Thankfully, sunnier and warm conditions are predicted for the final three rounds.