ARDMORE, Pa. -- Mike Davis, the executive director of the USGA, annually gets kudos from the players on the way the golf course that hosts the U.S. Open is set up. This week at Merion he faces significant challenges, though.
The course, which is hosting the U.S. Open for the first time in 32 years, is wet and more storms are expected on Thursday in a significant rainfall event that could bring another 2-3 inches to a course that has absorbed more than 6 in the last four days.
Here are some of Davis's thoughts on the eve of the championship.
WINNING SCORE: "It's not ... about the score. In fact, I will tell you, we never sit around and talk about the score. This notion that even par has to win or it's not going to be a good Open, we never talk about that because we know we can't ultimately control that. ... This week if you see -- pick your number -- 14 under win or you see 5 over win, for us it's how did the golf course play. Did it play appropriately?"
STIMPMETER: "We're going to prep these greens so they're somewhere around 13 to 13 and a half. That is a speed that we used at the U.S. Amateur 2005. We also used that in 2009 for the Walker Cup. And that seems to be Merion's, for a championship, ideal green speeds, where you don't lose hole locations, but you're also really testing the players and when you get to that speed, some of the undulations, and the movement in the greens really come alive. So that's what we're shooting for. In fact, today was really the first day we got to the speeds, given the weather we've had, up the last several days."
FIFTH GREEN: "The one green you might ask about is what about the fifth green? That's a green, if you haven't been out there, cants severely right to left. And that's one we will prepare to it's right around 12 on the Stimpmeter, maybe low 12s. Players have been notified of that. We've done this exact same thing in past championships here, and it works for that."
DIFFERENT TEES: "Teeing grounds, we will use some different teeing grounds, for sure. The third hole, the 14th hole, 17th and 18th holes and beyond that, we really just want to see what we're dealing with from a strategic standpoint, what Mother Nature is going to give us. There could be some other holes we ultimately use different teeing grounds."
FAIRWAY HEIGHTS: "One of the things that almost nobody in the room would notice, but I think it's worth noting is that, when I started at the USGA, we were mowing fairways right around a half an inch. And then over the years it's almost like an arms race, it's just gone down. And now we've gotten down closer to a quarter of an inch. One of the things that we're talking about with sustainability of the game, pace of play and making the game more enjoyable, we are not doing any golfers any favor, recreational players, by seeing golf fairways cut down so tight. It's harder for golfers to get the ball up. It's harder to hit pitch shots. ... We decided to go a little bit of a throwback this week, so fairways are almost half an inch in height again. There's just more cushion under the ball."
ROUGH: "The short holes ... (the rough is) five inches growing towards the tee. On the longer holes, the fifth hole, sixth hole, 14th hole, 18th hole, we've cut that down to four inches. The reason we chose that is the blend of grasses. If we go lower than those heights, particularly if it's mown to the greens, you get too many balls sitting right up on top of it, so it's almost on a tee. At those heights we think the ball sinks."
POOR SHOTS: "If you hit the ball wayward and you get outside of say a 18 to 20 foot width ... you're in the old traditional, U.S. Open, swing as hard as you can, and wedge it back to the fairway."