Numbers don't lie: Merion was simply a beast

Sergio Garcia was 16 over on Nos. 14 and 15 at the U.S. Open, but 1 under on the other 16 holes.

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Only because when the big tournaments go to special venues such as Merion Golf Club and the buzz lingers for days, it’s still worthwhile to ponder some leftovers. Here’s a look at some of the key junctures of the golf course and how those who played all 72 holes handled things at the 2013 U.S. Open:

• • •

The 504-yard, par-4 fifth

Take a bow, Edward Loar. You were the only player to complete 72 holes and play the monstrous test under par. Two birdies, one par, one bogey. Pretty impressive stuff.

Padraig Harrington was the only one to make four consecutive pars, while Lee Westwood, Simon Kahn and Shawn Stefani (two pars, one birdie, one bogey each) also played it in level par.

No surprise that players bogeyed the hole each day. Three, in fact – K.J. Choi, Simon Kahn and Jerry Kelly.

The fifth was a struggle for everyone, but especially for Matt Weibring, who played it in 7 over, and for Martin Kaymer, who was 6 over. Dustin Johnson and Ian Poulter both played it in 5 over, as did Jim Herman, though his end result was a peculiar one: three doubles and a birdie.

• • •

Nos. 14 and 15

Those back-to-back par 4s along Golf House Road that perplexed and frustrated? No one was stymied quite like Sergio Garcia, who went 16 over on them. (He was 1 under everywhere else.)

David Howell wasn’t very effective, either. He went 11 over on the holes, while John Peterson was 10 over. Kyle Stanley played the holes in 8 over, which included a 10 at the 14th in the third round. Harrington might have taken the fifth, but not 14 and 15. He was 5 over on the holes, thanks to one double and one triple.

Two players bogeyed 14 each day: John Senden and Morten Orum Madsen. (Doesn’t that name almost demand that he be called Sir Morten Orum Madsen?) Then again, Steven Alker and Charl Schwartzel probably wonder what the big deal was, as they went 1 under at Nos. 14-15 for the championship.

• • •

Nothing short about them

The par 3s were a huge deal at Merion – and we do mean huge. Fairway woods and even drivers were required, and by now you’ve probably heard the video clip of Phil Mickelson offering on-course criticism to Mike Davis, executive director of the U.S. Golf Association, for the extraordinary distance that the third hole played. It apparently was in the neighborhood of 270.

Ouch!

But here’s the thing: No one talked about the ninth hole, which yielded just one birdie Sunday (by John Senden), while five birdies were recorded at the third (Mathew Goggin, Russell Knox, Michael Weaver, Mike Weir and Stanley.)

The third and ninth played to the same field average Sunday (3.315), but for the week, No. 9 ranked toughest of the par 3s.

Demanding as the 17th might have been, what with a long carry over “the quarry,” four players managed to play it in 1 under for the championship: Shawn Stefani, Mickelson, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Nicolas Colsaerts. Eleven players recorded four straight pars there.

• • •

Short and not so sweet

Now when it came to the 13th hole, no one could criticize the USGA for setting it up too long. It played between 98 and 115 yards, and no hole yielded more birdies for the championship (126).

Yet to prove that you cannot make sense of golf, Mickelson was one of 10 players who went 1 over for the championship at this daintiest of holes. Who else played it 1 over? Padraig Harrington, Bubba Watson, Martin Laird, Robert Karlsson, David Lingmerth, Hideki Matsuyama, Marcel Siem, Kevin Sutherland and Billy Horschel.

• • •

Finishing punch

Safe to say that Ben Hogan’s iconic 1-iron in 1950 will remain a cover shot whenever Merion is mentioned, but let’s raise a toast to the way Rose finished. His tee shot at 17 was hole high, just exquisite, then he ripped a driver into the fairway at 18 and the laser approach with his 4-iron was unforgettable.

“Those last three shots were Hogan-like,” said Seth Waugh, former CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas and Rose’s close friend.

When you consider that Rose had played 17 and 18 in 3 over in the first three rounds, to finish with two solid pars in the fiercest of pressure is all the more impressive.

As for the 18th, it was a brute. For all intents and purposes, it was a par 5; because the USGA labeled it a par 4, the numbers for the championship were staggering: field average of 4.707 and just 11 birdies. Heck, there were more bogeys (208) than pars and birdies combined (189).

Who struggled the most?

Five players bogeyed the hole each round – Jason Day, John Huh, Kevin Phelan, Kevin Chappell and Ian Poulter. Five others played it in 5-over – Hunter Mahan, Geoff Ogilvy, Alistair Presnell, Jim Herman and Robert Karlsson.

Amateur Michael Kim, though, offered the greatest symmetry, scoring 3, 4, 5 and 6.

But given the demanding storyline that was the 18th hole, let’s offer a round of applause to the 11 players who did birdie the hole: Kim and Louis Oosthuizen in Round 1, then John Nieporte, Henrik Stenson, Carl Pettersson, Charl Schwartzel, John Peterson, Phil Mickelson, Martin Laird, Martin Kaymer and Billy Horschel in Round 2.

No one birdied 18 after the second round.

• • •

Some telling stats

How brutal of a challenge was the 18th hole? When all the numbers were crunched for the championship, only 24.7 percent of the field hit the green in two shots. The fifth wasn’t much easier (25.2).

For Sunday’s final round, however, the fifth was a tougher green to hit in regulation (15.1 percent) than the 18th (20.5).

But the toughest fairway to find in Sunday’s final round? That would have been the 301-yard, par-4 10th.

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