Going by-the-numbers through 36 holes at Merion

Paul Lawrie during the second round of the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club.

ARDMORE, Pa. -– For the 73 players who made the cut there are still two more rounds, 36 more grueling holes, of this U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club.

Before we go forward, however, there’s good reason to step back and study some of the statistical data that helps frame this vaunted golf course. There is the quirkiness of having a pair of difficult par 5s right away – at the second and the fourth.

But if you’re thinking that that allows players to roar out of the gates, think again. What points to the difficulty of these U.S. Open set-ups is the challenge players face to just reach these par-5 greens in regulation. Through 36 holes, only 74 percent of the players had reached the second green in regulation, a dismal 61 percent had done so at the fourth.

The par-4 10th? A pushover at a mere 303 yards, right? Think again, because through two rounds, only 76 percent of the field had reached the green in regulation. In other words, nearly one in four has failed to reach the green in two shots over the first two days. Again, that’s a 303-yard hole, folks.

The toughest green to hit in regulation? No surprise, but it’s been the 521-yard, par-4 18th, at just 26 percent for the first two rounds. The 504-yard, par-4 fifth is right behind, at 27 percent.

Only 44 percent have hit the green in regulation at the 246-yard 17th.

Most challenging fairway? The par-4 fourth, where just 41 percent have found the short grass. Most difficult green to putt? The numbers say it’s been the 16th, as players have averaged 1.871 putts through two rounds.

Not that everything is difficult at Merion, because a robust 80 percent have successfully hit the fairway at the 359-yard, par-4 eighth, 88 percent have hit the green at the 115-yard 13th, and the ninth green hasn’t mystified players, for it ranks easiest with a 1.619 average.

Zach Johnson opined that he didn’t agree with the way USGA officials manipulated Merion and one key juncture where he could point to would be the 14th and 15th holes. Fairways were physically re-positioned further left so they bumped up against Golf House Road. It brought out-of-bounds into the equation in a manner rarely seen at any championship and much to the joy of USGA officials – and Johnson’s ire – the numbers showed it. A whopping 49 double-bogeys or worse have been made in two rounds at those holes.

At the other end of the spectrum is a hole that was barely touched – the cute and attackable 115-yard 13th. No aces (yet), but in two rounds there were 78 birdies and just one double-bogey, by Matt Harmon.

Of the 154 players who completed 36 holes, only nine could say they did not have a three-putt – Henrik Stenson, Ernie Els, Hunter Mahan, Charl Schwartzel, Jerry Kelly, Marcel Siem, Josh Teater, Brandt Snedeker and Carl Pettersson.

Pettersson and Els, of course, used the anchoring technique that causes USGA officials to break out in hives, but before you use that as evidence that it should be banned, consider this: Through 36 holes, Webb Simpson (66 putts), Adam Scott (63), David Hearn (62), Tim Clark (60) and Pettersson (60) all averaged more than 30 putts per round using the anchoring technique.

Who had the roughest time on the greens in Round 2? Boo Weekley had five three-putts, Nick Watney had four, so we’ll offer them as candidates.

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