We are off to Merion for the 113th United States Open this week. The years second major is being held in Ardmore, Pennsylvania and brings with it plenty of intrigue. Much of the news this week will be surrounding the fact that Merion has been described as too short for the modern game of golf.
We picked up a great victory in the first Major of the season (Adam Scott at The Masters), and I very excited about making it 2 for 2. Let’s take a closer look at the course that will try and hold up against 156 talented golfers.
Merion was opened in 1896 and the course the players will playing this week was completed in 1912. Over the past 101 years it has seen plenty of historical moments and yet has maintained for the most part the original design. This week it will play host to America’s National Championship for the 5th time, with the last one coming in 1981 (won by David Graham).
The course this week will be playing as a Par 70, at 6996 yards. This yardage may seem very short to some of you, but I feel many people are overlooking the challenges it will give the players.
The rough at Merion has been described as some of the most penal the players have ever seen. Not only is long but it is extremely thick, making driving accuracy a priority. It has also been widely reported that this week will have soft conditions due to plenty of rain the past week. This will provide players a better chance of hitting the fairway, but it will also make hitting out of the rough that much more difficult. You will see players advancing the ball only 50 yards and just hacking it out, something I am sure will bring a smile to many amateur golfers faces.
The greens at Merion will not be running as quickly as the organizers may have hoped they would due to wet conditions. They will still be very fast though. I feel that it will be the pin placements that will make these greens tremendously challenging. Many of the greens are tricky and organizers will attempt to put pins in places that force players to be nervous about going for them. It will be odd seeing players spinning balls at a US Open, but this week it will happen.
Finally I feel the biggest challenge for players this week will be the fact that they are playing in the United States Open. Nerves will come into play for even the world’s best this week, and it may come down to the person who can best contain them. Winning a Major Championship is so difficult because players feel immense pressure down the stretch. We have all witnessed meltdowns in Major Championships and there will probably be one this weekend (Hopefully not another Jean Van de Velde though).
The 18th hole has a good chance of deciding the tournament on Sunday afternoon. It is a Par 4 measuring 521 yards that will challenge every player in field. Players have a difficult tee shot on 18, as they have to hit over a quarry to a landing area that has plenty of slope. If a player misses the fairway on the 18th, they will have virtually zero chance of hitting the green in two.
One of golfs most famous shots took place from 200 yards out in the 18th fairway during the 1950 US Open, when Ben Hogan flushed a 1iron onto the green. He would go on to win the Championship and that shot has been etched in golfing lore. Once reaching the green, players will have to deal with a domed shaped putting surface that is guarded by two bunkers. I expect the 18th to play as the most difficult hole for the week.
156 players have qualified to compete at Merion for this years edition of the United States Open. Players qualified for this tournament in various ways (ex. sectional qualifying, World Rankings), but they all enter with the same goal, to win this Championship.
All the headliner names are competing here this week and some very interesting groups have been created for the first two days. Lets take a closer look at a few of the notable ones.
Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott – ( We have the Top 3 ranked golfers in the world playing together. An interesting subplot here will be fact that Adam Scott’s caddie Steve Williams will be in the same group as Tiger (his old boss).
Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Tim Clark – Three of South Africa’s best golfers will tee it up together for the first two days. Oosthuizen is the 9th ranked player in the world and Schwartzel is the 14th.
Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, and Keegan Bradley – A very comfortable grouping for all three players. Keegan and Phil play most of there practice rounds together, as Phil has mentored Keegan over the years. Steve Stricker is one of the most well liked players and someone the pro’s enjoy being grouped with.
Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, and Martin Kaymer – It is amazing to me that Martin Kaymer is the player out of this group that holds a Major Championship. Donald and Westwood will attempt to vacate their names from the best player never to win a Major list this week.
An interesting statistic is that Sectional Qualifiers have won the United States Open 3 times in the past 35 years (Steve Jones 1996, Michael Campbell 2005, and Lucas Glover 2009). I do feel that this years US Open being played at a soft Merion will allow a greater number of players a legit opportunity to win. That being said, the winner will be seriously tested by the elements, course, and his fellow competitors.
The Picks for the 2013 US Open
The picks for the winner of the 2013 United States Open will be sent to members only this week, as it is the 2nd Major tournament of the year.
To sign up for a membership please visit www.GolfBanker.com
Free picks will resume next week, but I would love to see you join us this week for a great US Open tournament.