It's Almost Open Week
It's almost Open week. And the whole golf world is wondering what these guys will do to venerable old Merion, playing less than 7,000 yards. What do you think? Will it be a mugging? Will they tear it up because of the length?

I'm betting against that. I think the USGA will have Merion's defenses pretty strong against the assault of all these young guns who hit it a mile. The rough is going to be deep, deep, deep, and the fairways cut to 19-23 yards wide in most places, I'm betting. And the greens will be very fast and very firm, with gnarly rough within three feet of the putting surface.

The U.S. Open is generally my favorite tournament to watch, as it demands the most of the players. They have to be dead-on with every aspect of their game. The U.S. Open demands that everything be hitting on all cylinders. Some time back, after one of the Opens that gave these guys fits and had many of them whining, the USGA "guy in charge" answered the whining with a great quote:
"We are not trying to humiliate the best players in the world; we’re trying to identify him."
Week in and week out, we see players win regular tour events while hitting less than half the fairways, or missing over a third of the greens. That's not the precision that will get you a U.S. Open trophy. And to me, it shouldn't. The U.S. Open trophy should go to the best thinker, the outstanding strategist, and the one player who had the most command of his golf ball for four straight days.

If you remember your history, or have read any of the hundreds of articles about the Open's return to Merion, you'll know that David Graham won here in 1981 and his final round was defined by hitting all 18 greens! That's command. Hogan played that way. Many people don't know that when Hogan won his first tour event, he followed with two more right after — three in a row. In his wonderful biography of Mr. Hogan, James Dodson pointed out that in those 216 holes, Hogan missed only six greens!!! That's unbelievable when you put it in perspective of today's players. The PGA Tour leader in GIR percentage is hitting less than three out of four. And the PGA Tour average is under 65%.

Anyway, back to the Open, what I'm anxious to see is what club these guys will be hitting in to the 18th, the scene of the most famous golf photograph in history — Mr. Hogan in perfect pose after striping a one-iron from 190 yards to forty feet and a two-putt par to win. I understand that they will have the course set up to try to put the players in that same spot, but that would mean they'll have a 6- or 7-iron in their hands. My bet is that a bunch of them won't hit it as close as Hogan did that one-iron. It will be fun to see.

So, it's U.S. Open week coming up. And I'll be getting some rare TV time to see how old Merion holds up against these guys. Why don't you guys all chime in with your pick for the winner and we'll see who's right a week from Tuesday.
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[ comments ]
Scott Shields says:
Tiger wins it at -2.
slimpks1850 says:
Nice write up.

Love the quote: "We are not trying to humiliate the best players in the world; we’re trying to identify him."

Winner - Luke? Rory?
GolfSmith7 says:
Torleif Sorenson says:
Jason Day.
Duke of Hazards says:
Ballstriker's course + small/wet/slow greens (Philly forecast) = Boo Weekley

Wonder if he'll pull out the bull dance?
Anti-Mulligan says:
It will play very similar to Olympic. Guys think US Open and they automatically play not to lose rather than to win. I want Tiger to win but see similar results for him like last year, hoping not. The long holes are too long for the short ball strikers like Zach, I am guessing Manny, Keegan, Louie and maybe Sneds.
joe jones says:
Plus 1 wins. Most players will be hitting driver on about 3 holes a day. Merion is a strong second shot course so great ball striking is imperative. The USGA has a way of defending par at opens and this one won't be any different.
Felipe Rojas says:
Matt Kuchar. I know it's hard to win back-to-back events, but his game suits the US Open
Gromit5 says:
I remember watching David Graham that day, and even though I have far fewer brain cells I recall the only drive of his that "missed" the fairway: the ball was only a couple of feet into the first cut. Will someone come close to Graham's 7-under?
How much would a player pay to secure that score? Probably more than the $55K that Graham won.
mantajim says:
Phil, if he can keep it in the fairway
C-4 says:
EL TIGRE!!!!!! The best 2nd/recovery shot in the game. If his putter is working it will be by a land slide.
joe jones says:
The amount of rain they have had and the prediction of more will create a problem for the USGA to present a firm, fast course as usual. Soft fairways will lengthen the course but allow low ball strikers an opportunity to attack the pins.The rough will be horrible. Hitting fairways will be imperative. It is possible that lower scores will prevail but I still think the winning score will be at or slightly under par for the week. The USGA always finds a way to defend par and the members of Merion don't want the course to play "easy". The greens may be soft but they can be almost impossible to putt if Mike Davis chooses to make them that way.
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