Hints already that Merion wants another U.S. Open

DAVID M WARREN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Grandstands are empty at Merion as the club begins tearing things down after the U.S. Open.
DAVID M WARREN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Grandstands are empty at Merion as the club begins tearing things down after the U.S. Open.
Posted: June 19, 2013

MERION GOLF CLUB is willing, and has now shown that it is able, to host another U.S. Open.

Merion president Rick Ill has said before that the course would love to have the best players in the world compete in Ardmore. He said the process with the USGA already has been started.

"Clearly, we are talking to the USGA about what we want back, and what they would favor us in coming back here," Ill said on Comcast SportsNet's "Philly Sports Talk" about the Open returning. "I would think that a little while back, even with a successful Open, we would probably not expect another Open for a long time. But I think the success of this Open, not only for Merion, but for the USGA, and for the area, the region and the state, it has a possibility of coming back."

There already are rumblings as to what would be the ideal year for the U.S. Open to come back to Merion. Rumors and chatter cite 2030 as the ideal year, marking the 100th anniversary of Bobby Jones completing his Grand Slam at Merion.

The USGA has the U.S. Open sites booked until 2020, making 2021 the first year that Merion could again host the world's best. Many influential people think Merion has a good shot at landing another Open.

"Let me put it this way," said Merion member George "Buddy" Marucci, who was the captain of the winning U.S. Walker Cup team on his home course in 2009. "I see no reason why the Open couldn't come back."

The U.S. Open is not the only large event the USGA could hold at Merion. The course is eligible to hold boys' and girls' amateur tournaments, a U.S. Women's Amateur, or even another Walker Cup.

According to Marucci, Merion was spectacular. That is one simple reason the USGA should hold another event at the prestigious club. Heading into the Open, the talk was that the East Course would not hold up to the big hitters on tour. Merion is one of the shorter courses to host an Open, but more than held its own, with champion Justin Rose winning at 1-over-par.

Another issue was revenue. Only 25,000 tickets were sold each day for the Open at Merion, low by USGA standards. Next year's Open at Pinehurst, N.C., will sell about 50,000 tickets per day.

USGA executive director Mike Davis was pleased with how the Open played out at Merion.

Marucci, who lost in the final of the 1995 U.S. Amateur to Tiger Woods, also was happy.

"I thought it went great," he said. "I think we had a fabulous week, even for having to deal with all the [rainy] weather. The championship came off great. I was very pleased with the way everything turned out.

"I think the course held up beautifully. The conditioning was superb, in spite of all the weather. It was pretty much the test we thought it would be."

One headline during the days leading up to the Open was the rain, and fears it would lead to soft, attackable conditions. The course might have been a little softer, but it was far from attackable, which did not surprise Marucci.

"Soft is easier than firm, sure," Marucci said. "But Merion is a really difficult golf course under any conditions. When you make it soft, some different things become a problem. When it is firm, you have the obvious problems. It was going to be difficult regardless of the conditions."

The USGA did not have its ideal conditions of rock-hard greens for Merion, but the course still stunned the field last week. Marucci thinks that the play of the course would have nothing to do with any decision to bring the Open back. And first, Merion would have to approach the USGA about coming back, which Ill indicated will happen.

"I'm sure the USGA is happy with the way the golf course played. That is not an issue," Marucci said. "It is a matter of fitting it in there again [logistically]. But if both organizations [USGA and Merion GC] get together, I see no issue."

On Twitter: @AndrewJAlbert01

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