US Open: Flags replaced with wicker baskets

Baskets offer no help to players or caddies in terms of wind direction or speed

US Open: Flags replaced with wicker baskets

COMPETITORS at this week's US Open won’t only have saturated fairways to contend with, as a tradition at Merion Golf Club scraps the golf flag for a wicker basket.

The origin of this quirky idea is a mystery but course designer Hugh Irvine Wilson, a Scottish immigrant who returned to his homeland and England for inspiration, is reported to have liked the look of shepherds' staffs while on his scouting trip. The year the baskets were then introduced is also unclear.

The baskets, red on the front nine and orange on the back, are taken in every night to stop them being stolen and every player who wins at Merion is presented with one.

The tradition, which appears on the club logo, has divided opinion as it offers players and caddies no indication as to the direction and strength of the wind.

Tiger Woods' caddie Joe Lacava told USA Today: "It's obviously different. It will be fun. But as a caddie, I won't say it's more difficult but we do use the flags to determine where the wind is up around the greens. It's a hindrance but I think it's neat and cool. 

"We'll have to use the trees a little bit more, the wind charts, throwing up a lot of grass. We'll do a lot of things, but at the same time I like to think we'll get it figured out."

Australian Jason Day is also glad Merion stuck to their tradition and said: “The baskets are different and they could affect play, but I’m glad they’re here. It’s what’s known about Merion, and it’s what makes them different. So I’m glad they stuck with it."

Rickie Fowler, who was undefeated in his four matches during the 2009 Walker Cup at Merion, said: “It’s still a target; it’s still a place to aim.

"I’ve had other guys asking me about them because they’ve never seen them. I told them two things: don’t worry about it, and it wouldn’t be Merion without the wicker baskets."

While defending champion Webb Simpson believes the baskets will speed up play, he thinks caddies would prefer flags.

"I don't think the caddies are happy about them,” said the American. “They don't like it because they can't tell the wind (direction), so it makes their job harder. They might be a little on edge to keep their job this week.”

Watch this video to learn rules associated with the wicker basket.

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