All I heard for weeks before the 113th US Open this year was how easy the pros were going to have it at such a quaint old golf course like Merion Golf Course. It’s only 6995 yards, and some of the folks in my circle were projecting a 20 under par winning score. But the little course in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia has one thing the big TPC stadium courses don’t have…history, character….and sharp teeth.
Bobby Jones finished his famous Grand Slam here in 1930, and retired shortly afterward, never to play competitive golf again. Ben Hogan won the 1950 US Open and the plaque in the 18th fairway still marks the place where he hit the 1 iron that was heard around the world.
Hogan didn’t win the tournament with the infamous one iron shot, but he was able to get in the clubhouse at +7 over par which included a berth in the 18-hole Sunday playoff. In those days, tournaments included 36 holes on Saturday to close out events, and not played on Sunday as they are today. He beat Lloyd Mangrum, and George Fazio in an 18-hole playoff the next day for the championship.
Lee Trevino posted an even par total in 1971 to tie Jack Nicklaus for the 72 hole lead in the final round. He beat the Golden Bear on Monday in a playoff.
Australian David Graham hit 100% fairways and greens in 1981 to win the last US Open played at Merion. His -7 under par total was the lowest recorded in a US Open at Merion.
The US Open has not been back to this venue since 1981. The course was deemed to be too short, and the facility to small to handle modern crowds. The USGA has stated they will lose over $10 Million dollars in 2013 because they can’t sell the number of tickets they are used to selling to satisfy the coiffurs.
Merion is holding her own. After multiple rain delays on Thursday, the first round was finally completed on Friday morning. There were only five golfers under par at the end of 18 holes. Phil Mickelson opened with a -3 under 69, Luke Donald, and Matthew Goggins a -2 under 68, and Nicolas Colsaerts, and Russell Knox at -1 under 69. That’s it. Everyone else was either even par, or in black numbers.
Now that the weather has moved through the area, and the golf course has time to dry out a little. the scores should get higher. Greens that were running at 11-12 on the Stimpmeter will get closer to the 14 number. Because of the undulations on the greens, missed putts are already running 5-6 feet past the hole, let your imagination tell you if what the remainder of the tournament will have in store.
The marquee group of The world’s top three players, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Adam Scott produced combined first round total +8 over par. Tiger and Rory both carded 73′s, and The Masters Champion a 72.
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