If you’re a young golfer trying to stay interested in the putting green, you’ll probably end up with this scenario: This putt is to win the U.S. Open.
“Now that I get a chance to tee it up, maybe those 20-footers will come in handy,” Troy Merritt said Tuesday.
Merritt, who lives in Meridian, played golf at Boise State and spent part of his childhood in Burley. He will make his U.S. Open debut at 11:41 a.m. Mountain time Thursday at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, about 45 minutes outside of Milwaukee. He earned a spot with a strong showing at sectional qualifying last week.
The milestone made Merritt reminisce about those pretend high-stakes putts.
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“I made my fair share,” he said. “But the putting green at Burley Municipal is a lot different than at Erin Hills.”
Merritt, 31, is in his sixth season as a full-time member of the PGA Tour, including his fourth straight. He finished a career-best 56th in the FedExCup standings in 2015, highlighted by his first PGA Tour win, but this year he is 154th and fighting to retain his tour spot as the the summer swing begins.
He has missed the cut in 11 of 16 events since opening with three successful outings.
“It just feels like I’m hitting the ball a little better than the results,” Merritt said. “It seems like when I have my two, three, four misses a round, it seems to really cost me.”
The U.S. Open’s $12 million purse gives him an extra opportunity to climb the FedExCup standings, where the top 125 retain full status for next season. This will be his second straight week playing and he expects to compete in at least the next four events.
“I’ve got a busy summer,” he said. “I’ve got to try to keep my card. ... I’ll play in everything as long as I still have to fight for my job.”
This will be Merritt’s fourth appearance at a major. He tied for 54th in the 2015 PGA Championship — at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin — tied for 42nd at the 2016 Masters and missed the cut at the 2016 PGA.
Merritt was born in Iowa, and he attended high school and started college in Minnesota, so he will be well-supported at Erin Hills.
“I’ve learned that patience is pretty key in these majors and that bogeys don’t always kill you but doubles and higher will,” Merritt said. “It’s meant to frustrate you and test you both mentally and physically.”
Erin Hills is a massive golf course — measuring more than 7,700 yards on the scorecard, with a rare-for-the-Open par of 72. Merritt begins every week with 15 clubs in his bag and decides at the venue which one to subtract. This week, he expects to drop a wedge in favor of an extra long iron.
Players Justin Thomas and Kevin Na and Fox Sports analyst Paul Azinger already have used words like “torture chamber,” “nasty,” “overdone” and “brutal” to describe the way Erin Hills could play, according to USA Today. The gnarly fescue rough is one of the top concerns, though some of it was being mowed Tuesday.
Merritt played the course for the first time Monday.
“It’s a very big golf course — it’s long with pretty wide fairways,” he said. “There’s really no reason to be in the fescue. If you hit in there, you’ve hit a bad shot.
“You’ve got to be smart coming into the greens. There are places you can’t miss. Putting on the greens, it’s going to be a little bit of a challenge. There’s a lot of slope in the greens, yet a lot of putts seem to be really straight. It’s hard to wrap your head around that. And they don’t look like they should be as fast as they are.”