Merion chews up and spits out several big-names
As the final groups snuck in their last holes Friday, the projected cut line at the U.S. Open had jumped to 7-over. Dustin Johnson (ranked 19th in the world) and Brandt Snedeker (7th) went to bed outside that mark, but after the sun rose on Merion, the cut settled at 8-over, so Sneds and DJ got to hang around for the weekend.
Several other top players didn't wake up to similar news, but they might be glad not to see Merion's red wicker baskets anytime soon. The historic course didn't treat many of the world's top players too kindly.
The biggest disappointment might be Graeme McDowell [right]. Tabbed by analysts to be in the final groups on Sunday, the No. 8-ranked player in the world had more double-bogeys (7) than birdies (5) and only hit 60.8 percent of fairways in his two rounds of 76 and 77.
"This place is very hard," said McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champ. “I'll shake it off and I'll get ready for The Open Championship in a few weeks time. That's my next target.”
Short-hitter Zach Johnson was a popular sleeper pick to compete at Merion's course where driver distance would be neutralized. Not the case. He hit 22 of 28 fairways, but finished with rounds of 74 and 77 for a total of 11-over. The 2007 Masters champ didn't mince words after his round, according to the Golf Channel.
“I would describe the whole golf course as manipulated,” Johnson said. “It just enhances my disdain for the USGA and how it manipulates golf courses."
The leader in fairways hit, Jordan Hicks, who hit 13 of 14 each round, didn't translate that success to the course as he finished 76-73. Another short knocker, Tim Clark, finished 70-79.
Keegan Bradley could only watch as playing partners Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker hung around the top of the leaderboard Friday afternoon while Bradley languished behind. His 77-75 sent him packing for the weekend.
On the 10th anniversary of his 2003 U.S. Open victory at Olympia Fields, Jim Furyk exited stage left after a 77-79 in his home state. Furyk has struggled at other Open venues, but seemed legitimately sad at this being his last competitive round at Merion.
"And then to come back here is a bummer," Furyk lamented. "Later in my career at 43, there's not going to be another tournament here at Merion through my career, at least not maybe until the Champions Tour."
He sounds like the only player who isn't going to have nightmares featuring wicker baskets and mud balls for weeks.
Photo: Graeme McDowell at Merion on Wednesday (Getty Images).