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It would also dampen the drama of Tiger Woods‘ pursuit of his first major in five years, a reasonable proposition given that he’s already won four times on the PGA Tour this year. And Adam Scott’s hopes of becoming the first to win the Masters and U.S. Open back-to-back since Woods in 2002. Weather permitting, Woods, Scott and 2011 U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy have an early afternoon tee time Thursday, a grouping of the top three players in the world rankings.

Thought to be too small to host an Open anymore, Merion had been off the radar for so long that many of the top names in the field _ including Woods _ had never played it until recently. Organizers had to be creative with the placement of hospitality tents and parking lots on the club’s relatively small footprint, and ticket sales were capped at 25,000 a day instead of the usual 40,000 or so for recent championships.

But Merion was still expected to provide a quality test, emphasizing precision over power in the first major championship in nine years on a course under 7,000 yards.

“I’ve been reading about how many scoring records are going to be broken,” Nick Watney said. “I’ve been around here once. And I think that’s insane. It’s funny to me. People look at the yardage and think it’s going to be easy. Even if it’s soft, the greens are sloped. The rough is thick. OK, we’ll have wedges into some of the greens, but that doesn’t mean you make birdie on all those holes. There’s enough tough holes to counteract that.”

There’s concern from others, however, that the degree of difficulty might be watered down _ literally.

“Don’t go by what they score here this week,” Trevino said, “simply because Merion may not have its teeth in because of the wetness.”

Neither did Congressional two years ago, when rains softened the course and yielded McIlroy’s record-shattering 16-under 268. That year, USGA officials said repeatedly that even par wasn’t their target score for a U.S. Open winner.

They’re already in the same mode this week at Merion.

“Sure, we want it firm and fast,” O'Toole said. “We happen to play a sport that’s played outdoors. … So it’s not a perfect world.”


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