Why People Were Acting Crazy and Climbing Trees at Merion’s 18th Hole

The Inquirer‘s Frank Fitzpatrick has a story today gaming out the likelihood of the U.S. Open ever returning to Merion. Given the spate of negative media attention surround the quaint/cramped, rustic/outdated golfcourse in the last week, it’s not a crazy scenario to ponder. Even for the most-frequented course in USGA history.

All the grumpy kvetching aside, here is one potentially valid reason USGA organizers might take Merion off its shortlist in the future. Sunday evening, as Phil Mickelson approached the 18th hole to try and force a playoff with eventual winner Justin Rose, a horde–a literal horde–of fans tried to follow Lefty, only to be rebuffed by the course’s byzantine design. So, pandemonium ensued.

Literally amid cries of “They can’t stop 25,000 of us,” fans rushed towards Mickelson. It was a modern-day Battle of Jericho, sans the trumpets…The group pressed forward until the police arrived. Using force to keep the crowd at bay, the fans eventually created a complete circle-shaped gallery around Mickelson to watch him hit his pitch shot.

And then people started climbing trees.

Trees were immediately filled to the brim with spectators. One tried to push his way through the crowd by saying he was Phil Mickelson’s dad while reminding everyone it was Father’s Day.

Combine the ‘get in the hole!’ vibe of the modern day golf tourney with Merion’s distinctly cloistered digs, and you see the problem. What happened at 18 actually looked like a lot of fun. But it probably won’t help Merion’s case. [Golf]