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Why is the U.S. Open ‘back nine’ starting at 11?

Kevin Kaduk
Devil Ball Golf

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The 10th, 11th and 12th holes at Merion Golf Club (Yahoo! Maps/Devil Ball illustration)

ARDMORE, Pa. — You've heard a lot about golfers starting out on the "back nine" during the first two rounds of this year's U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club.

You might know, however, that the "back nine" term isn't technically true. The golfers who aren't starting out on the first hole this weekend are actually beginning their rounds on the par-4, 367-yard 11th hole. For those of you counting at home, that'd be a "back eight."

So why is the U.S. Open operating this way? The answer is simple: Logistics. As you can see from the map above, Ardmore Avenue runs through the East Course with eight holes living on the south side of the street. The tee box on the 10th hole isn't easily accessible from that street without severely limiting how much spectators could move between those three holes.

The 11th tee box earned the starting honors for the second half of golfers because it can be accessed through a short walk through a clearing in a thicket off Ardmore Avenue. Tournament officials made the decision that it'd be easier to drop off the players on that street and dump them directly into their rounds rather than bringing players through the back yards of nearby homes to start on 10. Observant golf fans will know this isn't exactly a novelty as "back nine" groupings started on the ninth hole at The Olympic Club during last year's U.S. Open.

Still, one local family is having a bit of fun with the slight adjustment. The Murphy family, which lives in a home just off the 10th hole, decided to stay put during the U.S. Open rather than rent out their property to the USGA so it could erect a scoring tent.

That led Pat Murphy to joke to USA Today's FTW that his house had altered the tournament. “We’re taking credit for this tournament starting on one and 11,” Murphy told the site.

”I know Hank Thompson, the guy running the tournament. The Murphys changed the tee box for the 2013 U.S. Open.”

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