The 113th U.S. Open has been teed up at Merion Golf Club, a course that has produced some of the finest drama over the years in the form of national opens and U.S. Amateurs.
It’s the site where Bobby Jones completed his grand slam, and, more recently, Lee Trevino took down Jack Nicklaus at the U.S. Open in 1971.
But, perhaps, Merion is best known for its lack of length.
At 6,996 yards, Merion is the shortest U.S. Open venue since 2004, when it was held farther north, at Shinnecock Hills in New York.
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For Dustin Johnson, one of the PGA Tour’s longest hitters off the tee, Merion packs a punch regardless of length.
“I like the layout of Merion, but you’ve got to hit a lot of really good tee shots,” Johnson said.
For Johnson and playing partners Bubba Watson and Nicolas Colsaerts, the last par-5 on the course to attack with their drivers is the fourth hole.
However, Johnson believes the prevailing winds allow for one of the two par-5s, either No. 2 or
No. 4, to play downwind, making them reachable in two shots for his powerful swing.
“Obviously, the wind could (will have an) effect,” the Columbia native said. “Generally speaking, one of the two will be downwind and one of them will be into the wind. Two is still reachable and four would be reachable if you hit a good drive. It’s not very easy to get in the fairway on those holes.”
Nor is it in any of these narrow fairways. The penalty for inaccuracy at a U.S. Open is typically long, thick fescue rough that makes it harder for players to hit Merion’s small greens.
One of the few exceptions in green size is the
diabolical 17th. It is deep and wide and has the ominous pig’s back curve to the green with everything sloping away from the high point in the middle.
The par-4 18th completes the strength of Merion’s stern finish at a whopping 521 yards.
In two of the past three U.S. Opens, Dustin Johnson has delivered some of his best golf.
At the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Johnson dominated throught three rounds and established a three-shot lead going into the final round before struggling through that eventful Sunday with an 82.
“U.S. Opens are tough,” Johnson said. “They reward good shots. You’ve just got to play golf well. You’ve got to grind.”
Grinding is what this 29-year-old has done so well to have a chance for his first major title. It’s what he did at the 2010 U.S. Open, the 2010 PGA Championship, the 2011 Open Championship, and now it’s what he will have to do for a strong go at a short Merion, with two of golf’s other dynamic bombers in Watson and Colsaerts.
The powerful trio has a scheduled start time of
7 a.m., off the 11th tee.
But Johnson is quick to point out that bombing the ball might not lead to success this week.
“This isn’t really a bombing golf course,” Johnson said. “This is a golf course where you’ve got to hit fairways. The holes are either really long or really short, so I will hit a lot of irons off the tee. On the longer holes, I can hit driver.”