For the first time since 1981, the U.S. Open is being held on the famous East Course of the Merion Golf Club not far from Philadelphia in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. This fact may not excite the casual fan, but die-hards know that magical things have happened at Merion over the last century.
In 1916, Bobby Jones made his national tournament debut at Merion, which hosted the amateur championship that year. Jones didn’t win, but would come back to win the tournament at Merion in 1924, completing his career grand slam.
Hosting the U.S. Open in 1950, Merion was the site of Ben Hogan’s historic victory not long after being injured in a car accident.
In 1971, two all-time greats faced off in a U.S. Open playoff at Merion. In that tournament, Lee Trevino edged out Jack Nickalus.
It’s an open question regarding who will win this time. The field will include last year’s surprise winner, Webb Simpson, as well as other recent majors winners Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson, and Phil Mickelson.
As always, however, the focus will be on Tiger Woods. The world’s top golfer has not won a major in five years. His last victory was at the 2008 U.S. Open, which was played at Torrey Pines.
Woods got off to a torrid start to the 2013 season, winning four PGA events. At the year’s first major, The Masters, Woods tied for fourth.
However, he is coming off one of the worst tournaments of his career. Two weeks ago, Woods finished twenty strokes behind Matt Kuchar, the winner of the Memorial Tournament.
Regardless, Woods is heavily favored to win this year’s U.S. Open. Oddsmakers have him as a 6/1 favorite, whereas no other golfer was given odds better than 20/1.
Merion is one of the shorter, stranger courses to host a major. In the past, such courses presented challenges to Woods, but his recent success at TPC Sawgrass suggests that he could win at Merion.
Several days of heavy rain figure to make the course soft and forgiving. As a result, experts expect numerous birdies and incredibly low scores. This may mean that dozens of golfers will take advantage, leading to a crowd at the top of the leader board come Sunday.
But it could also mean that Tiger Woods will run away with it, finally notching his fifteenth major victory and adding to the storied history of Merion.