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Merion chief promises hellish US Open test

ESPN staff
April 23, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Merion is gearing up to host the US Open © Getty Images
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The man in charge of the course setup at this year's US Open is hoping to make life a living hell for the golfers competing.

Mike Shaffer, director of golf course operations at Merion, has promised to set up the historic old Philadelphia course as tough as possible when the world's greatest players arrive in June.

Shaffer is hoping for players to start complaining about the difficulty of the layout - saying that will show he has got things right.

"If they start complaining or whining, I'm winning," Shaffer told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "That's the way I look at it. I have almost enough money saved for retirement.

"Somebody's going to say something. Then you've got guys who take it in stride, man up, keep their mouths shut, put their heads down and go after it. Just like the real world. I've always said the best green is the one where the last 10 feet you walk next to the ball and it [rolls perfectly]. And a little gust of wind comes up and gets faster. It should be like glass."

He added: "The rough will be higher, the greens will be a whole lot drier. We'll take a lot more risks than we normally would, but not a tremendous amount.

"In my profession, you're supposed to kill weeds. Me, not so much. If they get a lie [in the rough] in a spot of clover, well, I'm thinking Angel Cabrera might have that shot, but old Tiger [Woods] ain't hit it because he went to school at Stanford."

If the weather starts to intervene, then Shaffer will defer to USGA chief Mike Davis, who has won plaudits for some of his past US Open setups.

"If it rains, we can't really do anything," Shaffer noted. "Then we'll get to see Mike Davis at work. He knows how they think. He'll out-think them. It's going to relinquish a lot of birdies. And there'll be a lot of bogeys.

"The USGA's always out to protect par, and Merion doesn't have the extra 400 yards like Bethpage or Oakmont or Pinehurst. But it's so good, you can only alter it so much. We might have a few tricks for them. These guys are the best in the world."

Former US Open champion Graeme McDowell will be considered one of the favourites heading to Merion, and is hoping to make winning a habit after entering the winner's circle in 2013.

McDowell moved back into the world's top ten with victory at the weekend's RBC Heritage, his first fully-recognised victory on the PGA Tour since 2010.

"I want to win more often," McDowell said. "I'll learn from [the Heritage triumph] and hopefully try and put that back in my game, and make winning more of a habit. It's a great habit to get into.

"There are so many great players in the world right now it's very difficult. It's hard to do and you've got to savour them."

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