Officials from Merion Golf Club and the United States Golf Association were scrambling Saturday to get the site of next week's U.S. Open in shape after remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea pummeled the course with 3½ inches of rain.
Part of the East Course, where the 113th U.S. Open begins Thursday in suburban Philadelphia, were already susceptible to flooding, particularly the par-4 11th hole, which sits in an area vulnerable enough that USGA executive director Mike Davis long ago put in place a plan to use two holes from the nearby West course in case the 11th and parts of the 12th were deemed unplayable.
But USGA officials said the hole and the green had withstood the water from the most-recent storm.
"The work that Merion Golf Club had done on the banks of the nearby creek to minimize potential flooding worked well, and underscores how this area of the course could survive the worst of storms,'' said Joe Goode, the USGA's managing director of communications.
As of Saturday morning, Goode said "the green was fine, and the fairway had a couple of very small areas of debris, but otherwise very playable.''
Late Friday night, Merion golf course superintendent Arron McCurdy was less optimistic about the situation. He told the Golf Course Superintendent Association of America's website that he couldn't bear to look at the 11th green.
"It was 6 inches from flooding over the top of the green,'' McCurdy told Golf Course Management's blog. "We ordered six emergency loads of bunker sand and will get after it in the morning.''
The forecast for the Ardmore, Pa., area called for the potential of thunderstorms on Thursday and Friday through the tournament's first two rounds.
McCurdy said that predicted humidity is also not helpful, as moisture remains in the ground, making it more difficult for the course to dry and become the desired firm and fast test that the USGA seeks for the U.S. Open.
The Open is returning to the historic Merion site for the first time since 1981, when David Graham won at a venue that measured just 6,500 yards. It has been stretched to 6,996, still short by modern standards and considered vulnerable to low scoring if conditions are soft.
"You get kind of disappointed after all of the hard work you put into this,'' said McCurdy, who also noted that he is not worried that a contingency plan will be needed to use holes on the West Course and that after a lot of work, "we'll be fine.'' In its June issue, Golf Digest reported that a plan is in place to use holes from the West Course -- about a mile away -- if the 11th and 12th holes are damaged by flood water.
"We know the 11th hole floods,'' Davis, the USGA director, told the magazine. "Hardly goes a year where the stream isn't up and over the green at some point. Apparently they've done some work downstream that causes backups. So, historically, it floods and it drains.
"Having said that, you have to ask, 'What if all hell breaks loose? What if it stays flooded for two days?' That's why we're going to take some precautionary measures on the West Course.''
Due to logistical issues, the West is already being used for several aspects of the Open. It is where the players' locker room will be located and will host dining facilities and a practice area. Competitors will be shuttled to the East Course for the tournament.
Davis had a plan in which two par-4 holes on the West Course would be used to start a player's round before being shuttled to the East Course to play the remaining 16 holes.
"I'm giving you the doomsday of all doomsday scenarios,'' Davis said. "We wouldn't use a hole from the West Course unless we absolutely otherwise couldn't get this championship in -- if we had a stream that wouldn't recede for several days.''