- Associated Press - Sunday, June 9, 2013

ARDMORE, PA. (AP) - Merion Golf Club opened the gates Sunday to fans who wanted to buy U.S. Open merchandise. Some of them got a free glimpse of Tiger Woods.

But not for long.

Woods played 13 holes under hazy sunshine, far different conditions from what he saw two weeks ago in the wind and rain that made the shortest U.S. Open course in nine years feel much longer. He was among a scattering of players who spent a lazy afternoon getting to know a golf course that last held a major championship 32 years ago.

But while no one in the field played in that 1981 U.S. Open that David Graham won with a flawless final round, Kevin Chappell is among those getting reacquainted.


Chappell played four competitive rounds in 2005 during the U.S. Amateur, the litmus test for the USGA to make sure Merion was still current with the modern game. He lost in the third round that year, and while the surroundings look different with the grandstands and hospitality areas, one thing hasn’t changed.

“It’s a tour event on steroids,” Chappell said.

Merion is 6,996 yards on the scorecard, making it the first major championship under 7,000 yards since Shinnecock Hills (also 6,996 yards) for the 2004 U.S. Open. But the yardage can be deceiving. One of the par 5s is 628 yards, and Geoff Ogilvy figured there would be dozens of players who struggle to reach the green in three shots, much less get home in two. Another par 5 has been shifted to the right, bringing out-of-bounds close to the edge of the fairway.

It has a par 3 of only 115 yards _ the other par 3s all are over 240 yards.

And perhaps the biggest change from most recent U.S. Opens is the rough. It’s long and thick.

“The rough is longer than we’ve seen,” said Ogilvy, who had never seen Merion until arriving this weekend. “You can’t make grass grow in four days, but you can cut. Although I don’t think they will.”

USGA executive director Mike Davis was making the rounds Sunday afternoon, checking on a course that received about 3 1/2 inches of rain Friday, so much that the creek near the par-4 11th green was starting to creep over the rock wall. It was back to normal Sunday, though the forecast is suspect for a big part of week.

Chappell played 18 holes with former Masters champion Zach Johnson and Tim Clark, and he couldn’t help but notice how many of the fairways have shifted to move closer to the trouble. Then, he clarified what he meant by “trouble.”

“Closer to the boundary stakes,” he said.

Some of the fans leaned against the railing by the road on the left side of the 15th hole, so close to the fairway that they could have a personal conversation with Hunter Mahan, and even applaud his short iron to about 12 feet.

Merion has a lot of meat early in the round, particularly the opening six holes. What follows is a seven-hole stretch of par 3s and par 4s, the longest at 403 yards, which is short by today’s standards. It’s where the birdies are to be made, assuming the ball is placed in the correct part of the fairway. And then comes the strong finish.

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