Based on the scorecard, Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., projects as one of the shortest U.S. Open venues in recent history. The par-70 course will measure 6,996 yards for Thursdays opening round.That is more than 200 yards shorter than Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth (7,204 yards), site of the PGA Tours annual Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. It is 647 yards shorter than Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, Calif. (7,643 yards), site of the 2008 U.S. Open that remains the longest layout in tournament history.Mike Davis, executive director for the U.S. Golf Association, said todays power players might be able to reach the green with their tee shots on four of Merions par-4 holes: Nos. 1, 7, 8 and 10. The most inviting will be No. 10, which covers only 303 yards and is one of five par-4s on the course listed at shorter than 400 yards. The 13th hole, a par-3, measures only 115 yards.Despite those eye-catching numbers, Davis said he is not expecting a birdiefest at an event where golfers who post even-par totals over 72 holes usually find themselves in contention for a title. Nor does he anticipate an all-out-assault on the U.S. Open scoring record of 268, set by 2011 champ Rory McIlroy at Congressional Country Club, a 7,574-yard facility. At Merion, a 268 total would translate to 12 under par.Although some golf analysts predict a prolific run on red numbers this week, Davis said he does not because Merion, like Colonial, requires players to shape tee shots that trace the paths of narrow, dogleg fairways leading to small, well-guarded greens. Bogeys and double bogeys will surface, Davis said, and birdie opportunities may be less frequent than the scorecard suggests because of Merions unique par-5 and par-3 holes.The course has only two par-5s, both on the front nine, and one of them (No. 4) will be stretched to a robust 628 yards, making its green unreachable in two shots to all but a handful of the longest hitters.Although the 13th hole is short, the courses remaining par-3s cover 256 yards (No. 3), 236 yards (No. 9) and 246 yards (No. 17). The Merion fairways also slope more than their counterparts at Colonial, theoretically redirecting more errant drives into the graduated rough.This golf course requires more precision than most other U.S. Open golf courses. Its still a great test of golf, Davis said of a venue where Bobby Jones completed his 1930 Grand Slam with a victory at the U.S. Amateur and Ben Hogan captured the 1950 U.S. Open title in his first appearance in a major championship after a near-fatal car wreck in 1949. A part of the test of golf should be, Can you think through a situation under pressure? This course will make you think because you really have got to work your ball in both directions.At its tightest points, Davis said Merion fairways will measure 24 to 25 yards in width. The widest landing areas will be in the 30- to 35-yard range. And the course has its share of difficult driving holes, bounded by hazards and more out-of-bounds areas than most courses.When you stand on the second tee, when you stand on the 15th tee, if youre not thinking about out of bounds, you have fallen asleep, Davis said. Those are definitely characteristics to those two holes.In selected rounds, Davis said USGA officials may tweak some tees and shorten the layout to roughly 6,800 yards. Ideally, Davis said the organization hopes to prove that a vintage course like Merion, opened in 1912, remains relevant in todays power-golf era.For the good of the game, we cant not come back to a place like this, Davis said. Its too important from a historical standpoint This place is just magical. Its an architectural treasure.When the tournament starts Thursday, the course also will be a U.S. Open venue for the first time since 1981.Hogan hookTo golf fans in Tarrant County, Merion is best known as the site of Ben Hogans historic victory in the 1950 U.S. Open, just 16 months after a near-fatal car accident.It marked the Fort Worth golf legends first appearance in a major championship after his wreck, and Merion became the backdrop for one of golfs most iconic photos: Hogans follow-through after hitting a 213-yard, 1-iron approach to the 72nd green, taken by Sports Illustrated photographer Hy Peskin.Hogan parred the difficult closing hole to force an 18-hole playoff, which he won the next day over Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio.Soon after Hogans historic shot, the 1-iron disappeared and did not resurface until 1983, when a golf-club dealer in Florida noticed it had been mixed in to an otherwise matched set of used clubs he purchased for $150.Bobby Farino, the dealer who purchased the club, returned it to Hogan, who donated it to the USGA Museum in July 1983.King of qualifiersIn many ways, it should not be surprising that former UT Arlington golfer Zack Fischer played his way into the U.S. Open field at the Dallas sectional qualifier.Fischer, who defeated touring pro Ryan Palmer in a 12-hole, sudden-death playoff, has made it into the last four PGA Tour events that offered open qualifying spots for non-Tour members: the Valero Texas Open, Zurich Classic of New Orleans, HP Byron Nelson Championship and the U.S. Open.Fischer, 23, finished 68th at the Nelson but missed the cut in his other two starts.Asked about adding the Open to his 2013 schedule, Fischer said: I had planned to make it to Merion, honestly. I didnt have a backup plan. I had made three in a row. So, I was like, Why not four?Merion memoriesMerion Golf Club, opened in 1912, has been the site of many notable golf moments on the national stage during the past century. Some selected highlights: 1916: Bobby Jones, winner of the 1930 Grand Slam and one of the founders of the Masters Tournament, competed as a 14-year-old in the 1916 U.S. Amateur. It was Jones first appearance in the event and Merions first national tournament. 1924: Bobby Jones, 22, claimed his first of five U.S. Amateur titles. 1930: Bobby Jones earned the final title of his unprecedented 1930 Grand Slam by winning the U.S. Amateur at Merion. In 1930, Jones swept all four of golfs most prestigious titles in that era (U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open, British Amateur). 1934: Olin Dutra defeated Gene Sarazen, a future Hall of Famer, by one stroke to win the 1934 U.S. Open. 1950: Ben Hogan defeated Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazion in an 18-hole playoff to win the U.S. Open. 1971: Lee Trevino defeated Jack Nicklaus in an 18-hole playoff to win the U.S. Open. 1981: David Graham defeated George Burns and Bill Rogers by three strokes to win the U.S. Open. 1989: Chris Patton won the U.S. Amateur. 2005: Edoardo Molinari won the U.S. Amateur.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch