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The Tour Report

June 17 2013

2:34 PM

Was the par-3 third hole too long?

Phil Mickelson double-bogeyed the long par-3 third hole on Sunday at Merion. (Hallowell/Getty Images)


At the start of last week, the concern was that the 6.996-yard Merion Golf Club was too short to host a U.S. Open.

Interesting that in Sunday’s final round, the concern was that one of its holes was too long.

Phil Mickelson, the Open's 54-hole leader, was frustrated with the setup of the par-3 third hole, where he made double-bogey en route to his sixth runner-up finish at the U.S. Open. The hole was listed at 266 yards in the final round, and played into an unexpected breeze. It's all carry to the green, which is fronted by deep rough and a bunker that protects the front-right of the green,

“That's terrible. 274 (yards)? We can't even reach it," Mickelson said to USGA executive director Mike Davis as they walked off the fourth tee. 

The hole was stretched almost to its maximum length, with tees being placed on the back teeing ground and the hole location two-thirds of the way on the back-right of the green. A slope left of the hole would funnel tee shots toward the hole, but players struggled to take advantage of that assistance. They struggled just to reach the green because of the breeze. Fairway woods were the common club selection for the hole, which played to a 3.32 stroke average on Sunday.

It played as the course's eighth-toughest hole Sunday, yielding only five birdies in the final round. In spite of the extreme length, the third hole played about as difficult as it had all week. It was the eighth-toughest hole of the week, playing to a 3.33 scoring average for the four rounds.

"We set the golf course up today for a south wind," Davis said Sunday night. "When we got to the third hole, we were really getting a westerly, even a northwest, wind, so it played long. It played longer than we would have -- but having said that, it was a back hole location that was the most receptive on the green. We felt that it could handle 3-wood shots, if need be. (Mickelson) mentioned that he thought it was too long. That's fine. We wouldn't have put the tee markers back where we did had we known we were going to get that wind."

Mickelson, who did not carry a driver at Merion, hit fairway wood from the tee. "The third hole was ... very tough, in fact, 274 into a 20-(mph) wind," Mickelson said after his round. "I didn't really have the shot to get back there.  I needed a driver. And I could have gotten a 3-wood on the first half, the front left, which is where I went for it, and it ended up in a very awkward spot.  But I should have been able to two-putt and make bogey."