By John Strege
It won't play well with the modern fraternity, but NBC's Johnny Miller evoked a bygone era -- his own, not surprisingly -- to explain the U.S. Open field's general failure to solve the riddle of the Merion Golf Club.
"There are birdie holes, but you have to play them correctly," Miller said Saturday, in the midst of the third-round carnage. "It's a precision golf course. I don't believe the players of today are precision players on a whole. They're more power, take advantage of the par 5s. They're good players, obviously, great players, but somehow when they get on a precise course with long rough, they're like, 'what is this?'"
The Twitter response? Two players, both on the Champions Tour and having overlapped with Miller's generation, agreed with him.
"Johnny Miller is CORRECT," Steve Elkington wrote. "Today's players aren't precise."
"Finally," John Cook wrote, apparently zinging Miller while agreeing with Elkington.
On Golf Channel earlier in the day, Cook, who tied for fourth in the Open at Merion in 1981, provided interesting context that wouldn't fit in 140 characters.
"It's an old classic with movement in the fairways and that's what makes these old golf courses relevant," Cook said. "They can hold their own because you have to know which way that fairway pitches and the type of shot you're going to have to play to keep the ball in the fairway. It's unfamiliar to a lot of guys, because they didn't get a lot of practice on it, but you have to adjust to it, but that's the way it is.
"If you want to win the U.S. Open you have to figure out how to play these golf courses. If you don't, move on and you get Travelers [Championship] next week where you'll shoot 20-under par. It's the U.S. Open."
Let Greg Norman, yet another player from the same era, have the last word, via Twitter: "Love the old style golf this week. 2 many wks the players want perfect. Marion's [sic] imperfect perfect nuances r brilliant."
Merion and Joe Frazier
Former USGA executive director David Fay, who had a hand in awarding the U.S. Open to Merion, was asked on NBC his opinion of how the course was holding up.
"There was a headline this morning. After two rounds the winner is Merion," he said. "I think it's held up well. You have a historic masterpiece here, and it is proving it is up to the challenge and taking everything that contemporary golf can dish out. We're in Philly. Joe Frazier. That's how I look at Merion. It's a compact heavyweight. It's relentless. There are some times when you think you can let your guard down you might get a whistling left hook and wonder what hit you."
Hey, Ernie, Watch Luke
Miller invoked a familiar theme, nerves, when Ernie Els put a cut stroke on a short putt that he missed by a wide margin.
"Got to be nerves, that stroke," Miller said. "That's not a good stroke."
A better one was displayed by Luke Donald, particularly on a birdie putt that he holed on the fourth hole. "That was such a beautiful stroke," Miller said. "It has such rhythm. That stroke there, every golfer should watch about 15 minutes before they go to sleep every night."
While we're young
The pace of play on Saturday was abysmal, evoking widespread sarcasm over the USGA's new "While We're Young" campaign urging golfers to pick up the pace. But don't blame slow play on Billy Horschel.
"He'll hit it while we're young," NBC's Roger Maltbie said. "He doesn't take a lot of time."
Elkington (2elkpga): "It could wind up the most boring USopen of all.... No way to make a run....#nodrama"