ARDMORE, Pa. -- The story goes that when Tiger Woods rents your house for a tournament, he remodels everything, according to ESPN’s Rick Reilly.
At Merion for the U.S. Open this week, rumor has it that Tiger rented a house near the golf course and paid to replace the kitchen and the furniture and put in a new swimming pool.
All that just to shoot 13-over.
Certainly a lot of folks made a lot of money when the U.S. Open took over Merion last week. From the USGA to the people who purportedly had Tiger Woods install a pool at their home and made out pretty well.
But was that enough to bring the U.S. Open back to Merion?
Ever since we learned that Merion would be hosting the tournament for the first time since 1981, we heard all the same choruses. It’s too small, too old, and too difficult to get there. Plus, there weren’t enough tickets to go around, not enough plush corporate amenities for the fat cats and no parking.
Because of the limited space for spectators and corporate tents along the course, the U.S. Open probably will produce a revenue loss, USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said.
“As great as this week was, I think the U.S. Open has kind of moved past one of these venues,” said Brandt Snedeker, one of the pre-tournament favorites. “It’s been great to be part of it. I love the history here, but there’s so much more that goes into a U.S. Open than just golf. I don’t think it is unless something happens drastically in the next 10 years where they're able to move some stuff around or redo the routing around here. We had some problems here.”
The golfers had to use a locker room, driving range and putting green that was more than a mile away from the clubhouse and first tee. After warming up, the golfers got into a shuttle bus to negotiate the way through the small, residential roads to get to the course. Then they had to wait some more before teeing off, rendering whatever workout they did useless.
“Obviously that’s not ideal,” said reigning Masters champion, Adam Scott. “They have to weigh up whether that’s a big enough factor for them to have it here or not.”
Then there was the post-round interview area and trailers for the officials and players to sign the scorecards … that was in someone’s backyard. Yes, the biggest golf tournament in the world was set up so that some of the wealthiest athletes in the history of sports, had to meet their families and the media just off the driveway, beside the garage and the flowerbed.
Kind of gives a new meaning to the phrase, “Hey jerks, get off my lawn!”
Look, no one really cares that the media and pro athletes are inconvenienced except for the media and pro athletes. Plus, there is nothing more idiotic than a person who receives free meals, free drinks, reams of information and unfettered access to a great golf course and golfers only to listen to them complain about walking a mile to an interview area in someone’s back yard or a parking lot a mile away.
Those people are the worst.
But when the logistics affect the final money drop and makes the play less than spectacular, it matters.
“Only letting 15,000 people experience this championship is probably on the low end,” Snedeker said. “It would be great to see 40,000 or 50,000 fans out there to enjoy it. I thought they did the best with what they had. It was just from an infrastructure standpoint, it’s just lacking a few things. They did the best with what they could, and they used homes. They did what they could to make this the best way possible and it ran great.”
Snedeker wasn’t the only person expressing similar sentiments. In order to “protect par” and keep the cozy, historical golf course from being over run by modern golfers and their advanced technological equipment, the USGA had to set up the course in a manner that made it the golf equivalent to water boarding. Pin placements were so severe that even the eventual winner Justin Rose said he had to ignore the scorecard and forget about par.
It turned out to be a good strategy for Rose, but Woods had a more difficult time adjusting his game to the manipulation of the course.
“I understand what they're trying to do. The hard holes played really, really hard,” Woods said. “Obviously, the short holes we could get after it a little bit. But some of these pins, they were a step over some of the lumps. That's a little bit tighter than we were all expecting going into the week.”
The earliest a U.S. Open could return to Merion is 2021 and who knows what the world — both golf and real — will look like then. Though Woods says he thinks Merion could host another Open, it sounded like a politically correct answer. Or maybe an answer from a guy that dropped a lot of cash to install a pool, remodel the kitchen and replace the furniture only to shoot 13-over.
“Certainly as a golf course, it could definitely host another major championship,” Woods said. “But I don't know if the USGA wants to. They make a lot of money on other venues.”
Maybe other venues in the region are the way to make Philly an annual Tour stop? Aronimink certainly held up well for the AT&T National for two years and would be a perfect course for the PGA Championship. Plus, the Lancaster Country Club will be hosting the women’s U.S. Open in 2015, perhaps as a showcase to attract a men’s major championship.
The PGA is actively seeking a stop in the Philly area for golf. The question that remains is when and where it will happen and whose house is Tiger going to remodel.