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June 15, 2013

Can U.S. Open host Merion withstand today's equipment?

This weekend, Merion Golf Club is hosting the United States Open.

Merion is full of history. Located in Ardmore, Pa., the East Course opened in 1912. In 1916, Chick Evans (who started the Evans Scholars program) won the U.S. Amateur there becoming the first player to win a U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open in the same year. That same year, a 14-year-old Bobby Jones reached the quarter-finals. Most significantly, Merion was the place where Bobby Jones completed his “Grand Slam” in 1930 by winning the U.S. Amateur. Prior to that, Jones also won the U.S. Amateur there in 1924.

Merion hosted its first U.S Open in 1934 where Olin Dutra, recovering from food poisoning days before the tournament, considered withdrawing. His brother Mortie, also playing in the event, convinced him to play. Playing 15 pounds lighter, he ate sugar cubes to keep up his energy and drank plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Dutra made up a three-stroke deficit over the last nine holes to defeat Gene Sarazen.

Merion is where only a year after a near-fatal car crash, Ben Hogan returned and hit his famous 1-iron to the green on the 18th hole to force a playoff that he would win. It is also where in 1971, the likable Lee Trevino tossed a rubber snake to Jack Nicklaus in jest on the first tee and beat Nicklaus in an 18-hole playoff for the title. Then in 1981, David Graham became the first Australian to win a U.S. Open, turning in a flawless final round. Graham missedonly the first fairway and had no approach shot off the green or fringe. He didn’t have to chip all day.

The historic course has not hosted a U.S. Open since 1981. Why so long? Many might have feared that the course’s shorter length wouldn’t stand up to today’s equipment, resulting in record scoring. With the heavy rains this week, those fears grew even more.

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