5. Tiger Woods is now 18-over par in his last four weekend rounds at the U.S. Open. Why can't Tiger Woods close anymore in majors when he's near the lead?
Godich: Tiger is pressing. You could see it during his front nine on Thursday. Thursday! And over the past 20 years, he has set the bar ridiculously high for himself. I wonder if he isn't at last feeling the grind. We're so accustomed to watching him putt aggressively, gunning birdie putts five feet past because he knew he would always make the comebacker. Not anymore. I think he's still got a couple more majors in him, but he's an old 37.
Passov: He can't find a fairway on the par 5s so he can't dominate them the way he used to, and he can't seem to hole two putts in row to build the momentum he needs to sustain him on a tougher-than-normal course.
Van Sickle: Tiger didn't have his ballstriking in line. I hate excuses but I'm going to let him off the hook with this one, given his poor performance at Memorial, too, and assume he really did have a bad elbow that was affecting his play. He wasn't able to control his shots into the proper parts of the green and at Merion, if you didn't have a nice uphill putt, you had a nightmare.
Gorant: Not sure, but I hope he's seeking professional help at this point. Definitely seems like the problem is upstairs at this point.
Wei: I think it's gotten to that point where he's getting in his own way because he wants No. 15 so badly. Tiger can win the Farmers Insurance Open, Arnie's tourney, a WGC and even the Players Championship, but at the end of the day, those aren't majors and he'd gladly trade all four trophies for a major one. When the going gets tough, he starts pressing and when he can't get the momentum back, he becomes even more frustrated. In regard to his actual game, his iron and wedge play are still too sloppy. He needs to give himself more opportunities to make birdies instead of trying to scramble for those pars. He's simply putting too much pressure on the putter and has been all year. Plus, as we saw with his clearly aggravated elbow, his body ain't holding up all that well.
Reiterman: I'm on board with Michael Bamberger and Johnny Miller - he wants it too badly. (Although hitting drives in the rough and missing putts hurts, too.)
Ritter: He's had various things go haywire at majors in the last five years, but the most consistent problem is still putting. He just isn't getting them to drop anyone in majors when he really needs them. The final tally from this week: 128 putts, and five three-jacks. Not nearly good enough.
6. Many "people who know things" -- including some PGA Tour pros -- thought that today's long-hitting Tour pros would destroy cozy little Merion. Why were they so wrong?
Van Sickle: Tough, twisting, super-fast greens are always a defense. There was also a bit of wind two days. The pins were on knobs and crests and, frankly, some crazy spots. With where the pins were, you could give a pro 18 12-footers for birdie and they still couldn't have shot 63. It was the setup.
Ritter: Seemed to me that a lot of small alterations added up to one tough course. Longer-than-normal fairway grass that reduced spin, the juicy rough, those tough pins, the slick greens. Add U.S. Open pressure to the mix and one-over par is your winning score.
Passov: Today's pros have forgotten how to manage these old-time U.S. Open setups. Truly brutal rough, weather that made for tougher hole locations and greens with harder-to-read breaks made for a frustrating, confidence-sapping scoring week for most. It was hardly unfair -- and the final tally didn't come close to Oakmont or Winged Foot (+5) and matched the +1 yielded by Olympic's goofy setup last year -- but I think most underestimated how really, really hard the hard holes would play.
Wei: Because Merion is brutally hard and the course plays much longer than the yardage. I played it a few years ago from 6,100 yards and felt like it was at least 6,600 yards. I'd say this setup this week played around 7,600 yards. The greens are really grainy and hard to read, and they're also easy to three-putt. It proves that a golf course doesn't need to be 7,500 yards to be a good test. Perhaps some of those pins were questionable, but the greens are extremely severe, anyway. Merion is one tough broad! Can you imagine if the course were playing firm and fast?!
Godich: There is no substitute for accuracy. Merion may have only measured 6,996 yards, but the difficult holes were really difficult. If you didn't capitalize on the middle stretch of holes, you were in trouble.
Reiterman: They forgot the greens aren't flat at Merion. Also, there was no graduated rough this year.
Gorant: The USGA pushed the setup as much as they could, and it looked to me that the course had more subtleties -- canted fairways, angled greens, etc. -- that presented more difficulty than originally imagined. Also, turns out the place drains pretty darn fast.
7. David Graham wins in 1981 with tiny-headed wood woods at 7-under par. Justin Rose wins by two at plus 1. Did the USGA go too far in its course setup in an effort to protect par, in order to bolster its claim that Merion, and sub-7,000-yard courses are still relevant? Do you see the U.S. Open returning to Merion anytime soon?
Passov: I guess there were lots of logistical issues, but there will probably be enthusiasm for returning. I'm glad that the course held up, but it was due to a bunch of hard holes playing ridiculously tough through length, rough and greens not quite receptive to such long shots, rather than the design itself that allowed Merion to hold its own. I say I'm glad it held up, because golf embraces its history so much that people and players deserve to see Merion on the big stage on a semi-regular basis. You can't always compare fairly, but even with the added length since '81, the pros should have been able to go lower than plus 1, so yes, I think the USGA overcooked it a bit. That said, once a year, most of these guys -- and many fans -- love a good grind-fest, and this year's U.S. Open delivered big-time.
Godich: The detractors would have had a stronger argument if Merion had played firm and fast. We're talking about the U.S. Open. It's supposed to be hard. And yet, with the intriguing mix of holes, there were plenty of birdie opportunities out there. Merion deserves a spot in the Open rota.
Ritter: The course wasn't unfair, but it turned out to be the toughest test the pros are likely to face this season, just as it should be. But I'm torn on whether they should return. The course is sweet, but the logistics were extremely difficult. The players' lounge was a local home, and it was tough for fans to roam around and see a lot of golf. Also, I've developed a nervous tick just from hearing the word "shuttle."
Reiterman: I thought No. 3 at 266 yards on Sunday was ridiculous and it seemed some of the fairways were pinched in too tight. But it also seemed like guys had plenty of opportunities to make birdies. However, I don't know if it makes sense logistically to come back to Merion for a while. The area residents had to give up a lot to make this U.S. Open work. It will be interesting to see if they' be willing to do it again.
Wei: Naw, the USGA didn't go too far to protect par, though I do see Zach Johnson's point with the course being too manipulated. However, luck is always a factor. (Think Tiger's ball bouncing off the flagstick at the Masters.) I didn't think Merion was more severe than some of the other setups I've seen the last few years. I can see it coming back only because a member told me the USGA has already begged the club to return. This Open withstood the test of time, and in the end, turned out well, though it looked dicey at moments, like with the drainage, the potential of no. 11 flooding, and the awful logistics.
Gorant: Can't see a return soon, as the logistics were crazy and the USGA did take a financial bath. Not sure the final scores prove anything though. The questions that existed before last week remain.
Van Sickle: The USGA and Merion folks overdid it in their effort to prove Merion up-to-date. Those pin positions were straight out of a Superintendent's Revenge outing. Way over the top and unnecessary. Merion was good enough to stand on its own and didn't need a number of absurd pin positions. Also, three par 3s over 250 was a bit much. I don't think No. 3 was designed to play 266 into the wind and make many players hit driver. The 18th at 530 uphill into the wind was a bit much, too. They made sure with the setup that scores were high. No one knew how severe it was going to be. Merion got a full-blown facelift when all it needed was a little bit of makeup. The Opens are already booked through 2020. I'm not sure we'll see another one at Merion. The logistics were staggeringly bad for players, officials, media and fans.