For the next eight days, as Merion hosts the 2013 U.S. Open, Philadelphia is going to be the center of the golf world. Above, an overhead view of Merion with the Philadelphia skyline visible in the distance. (Photo Copyright USGA/John Mummert)
Well, it’s here.
For the first time in more than 30 years, Philadelphia will host one of golf’s four major championships this week at Merion Golf Club.
The 2013 U.S. Open Championship tees off at Merion from Monday, June 10 to Sunday, June 16. (You can get an early start by checking out the official U.S. Open Merchandise Pavilion at Merion this weekend, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. No ticket necessary.)
So golf fans in the area should be pretty excited right now.
But you don’t have to be a golf fanatic to appreciate how special having this championship come to Philadelphia is.
While it’s taken 32 years for the tournament to return to our neck of the woods, the timing is pretty great. It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Tiger, Phil and Rory battle it out on one of the most fabled courses in the country… right here in our backyard.
And Philadelphia is going to be at the center of the golf world for the next eight days.
Below we take a look at the Top 12 reasons to get excited about the 113th U.S. Open Championship returning to the Philadelphia area this week.
1. The Course
To say Merion is a unique U.S. Open venue would be a significant understatement. The East Course at Merion Golf Club sits on 127 acres. Most U.S. Open courses these days are closer to 300 acres. In order to make a modern U.S. Open work on such a small footprint, a lot of creative thinking had to be done. (See numbers 3 & 4 below.) The East Course, which opened in 1912, was designed by Merion member Hugh Wilson Minor. Minor renovations and tweaks have been made to the classic design over the last 101 years. And despite being considered “short” for today’s modern game, according to the USGA, Merion’s strong architectural features make it an ideal setting for its fifth U.S. Open.
2. The History
Established in 1896, Merion Golf Club enjoys the distinction of hosting more USGA championships (the 2013 U.S. Open will be its 18th) than any other club in America. It has been the site of several iconic moments in the game’s history, including Bobby Jones completing the “Grand Slam” in 1930 with his U.S. Amateur triumph on Merion’s 11th hole, and Ben Hogan winning the 1950 U.S. Open 16 months after surviving a near-fatal automobile accident. Lee Trevino beat Jack Nicklaus in 1971 at Merion after an 18-hole playoff. With all of this history, bringing the U.S. Open back to Merion means a lot to golf. Bringing it back to Merion also means a lot to the golfers. As much as the pros are motivated to win a major championship no matter the venue, they’re motivated even more to win a U.S. Open on one of the most historic tracks in the country.
Distinguished by its iconic wicker basket flagsticks, Merion offers a mix of tantalizing short holes and arduous long holes that will test the 156 competitors of the 113th U.S. Open Championship. Above is the 11th hole, where Bobby Jones completed golf's only Grand Slam in 1930. (Photo Copyright USGA/John Mummert)
3. The Setting
It’s going to be a snug fit. The 127 acres that Merion East resides on are surrounded by a residential neighborhood in Ardmore on Philadelphia’s Main Line. And the neighborhood comes into play. Ardmore Avenue runs along the right side of the 2nd hole, only a few yards from the fairway. There’s a church with a functioning bell tower about 150 yards from the sixth green. Septa’s Norristown High Speed Line runs along the east side of the course and will be in full operation during the Championship. Haverford College sits across Haverford Road from Merion and has graciously lent some 20 acres to the USGA to use for the Championship. The USGA even had to lease an entire block of private homes on Golf House Road along holes 14 and 15 to use for sponsor tents and pavilions. It’s going to be interesting. Check out this great piece in The New York Times about all the collaboration going into making this tournament work on such a small course.
4. The Grandstands
Due to the course’s extremely small footprint, the USGA had to limit the amount of spectators that could attend the tournament each day. Last year, the U.S. Open had 45,000 spectators during each of the Championship rounds; this year that number has been reduced to approximately 25,000 people per day. And the tight grounds have forced the U.S. Open to rely on more grandstands than normal. The USGA has built 16,804 grandstand seats at Merion for this year’s tournament, since spectator movement around the course is going to be less than a normal Open Championship.
5. The Grouping
Tiger, Rory and Adam, oh my. Tiger Woods will be grouped with Rory McIroy and Adam Scott for the first two rounds of play. The world’s top three ranked players will be playing together: Tiger’s #1, Rory is #2 and Adam Scott, the winner of this year’s Masters, is #3. Needless to say, this is going to be a marquee grouping that you are going to want to watch.
Oh, hi Tiger and Rory. Your grouping together for Rounds 1 and 2 is going to make for some pretty great golf to watch. (Photo credit: Visit Philly)
Below, check out more reasons to be excited for the Open, including a $100 million economic impact on the region.
Tiger Woods has regained his old form. He’s played in eight tournaments in 2013 and has won four of them. He is once again the #1 ranked player in the world, having overtaken Rory McIlroy thanks to the first three of those early season tour victories. That said, Tiger is still sitting on 14 major championships in his career, having not won a major since 2008. In steadfast pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major victories, Tiger is eager to break his four-year drought in the majors. And Tiger would LOVE to break the drought at Merion and win an open on the same revered course where Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones have two of the most famous victories in golf.
Phil too would love to win his first U.S. Open at the fabled Merion. Phil Mickelson, Tiger’s longtime rival, has had a decent 2013 season so far, winning one tournament and finishing with a couple top 10s. He’s coming off a second place finish at this past weekend’s St. Jude Classic, which should serve as a nice tune-up for Lefty. Currently the 10th ranked player in the world, Phil has won four majors in his hall-of-fame career, but never a U.S. Open. He’s finished runner-up at the U.S. Open a record FIVE times. Phil really, really wants to win a U.S. Open. Could this be his year? With a decent start on Thursday, we think he can make a solid run at it.
And then there’s Rory McIroy, the #2-ranked, 24-year old phenom who shattered records on his way to his first U.S. Open victory in 2011. Rory will be in Tiger’s group for the first two rounds, along with Adam Scott. It’s definitely going to be interesting to see who handles the power-pairing the best.
Established in 1896, Merion Golf Club enjoys the distinction of hosting more USGA championships (the 2013 U.S. Open will be its 18th) than any other club in America. Seen here is the green of the Par 3 9th hole. (Photo Copyright USGA/John Mummert)
9. The Rest of the Field
It’s literally anyone’s tournament. The U.S. Open is just that — it’s open. The USGA accepted a record 9,820 entries for the 2013 U.S. Open. Those 9,820 golfers competed in local and then sectional qualifiers to earn one of 156 spots to compete in the national championship. This opportunity is what makes the U.S. Open the most democratic championship in golf.
10. The Spotlight on Philadelphia
The U.S. Open is a truly a global event — this is a great opportunity for Philadelphia to really shine. It’s been 32 years since the Philadelphia area has last hosted one of golf’s four major championships. So it’s kind of awesome that all week next week, Philadelphia will be at the center of the golf world. ESPN, the Golf Channel and NBC are delivering more than 85 hours of live tournament and news coverage during U.S. Open week, which includes 35 hours of national TV coverage during the championship rounds of the tournament, Thursday – Sunday. That’s a lot of facetime for Philadelphia.
Missing greens and fairways at Merion is not going to be fun — ridiculously deep fescue rough, seen here behind the 4th green, is pretty much in play on every hole. (Photo Copyright USGA/John Mummert)
11. The Economic Impact
The USGA is estimating an economic impact on the region of $100 million to $120 million. Hotels are already full, restaurants are going to be packed, small businesses are picking up extra work — it’s a major economic driver for the entire region to host an event like this. And Philadelphia loves doing so. In fact, we hope we get to do it again soon.
12. The Hope That It Will Come Back Soon
This is the fifth time the U.S. Open will be played at Merion: 1934, 1951, 1971, 1981 and 2013. It’s been 32 years since it’s been played here, and after 1981, it was widely thought that it may never come back on account of the course’s small size. But both Merion and the USGA wanted to bring it back. So if this week goes well, it could be back next decade… After all, the U.S. Open usually returns to courses like Pebble Beach, Oakmont and Shinnecock Hills every 10 years or so, so we’re hoping a successful 2013 open at Merion puts Merion back into rotation for a U.S. Open every decade.
So, yeah, those are a dozen of the reasons we’re pretty excited the U.S. Open is back at Merion this year.
Want to go? A limited number of individual tickets remain available for purchase through the USGA for the practice rounds. For the Championship rounds, Thursday through Sunday, Stubhub may be the best option.
Update: On Sunday, June 9, the USGA announced that all practice round tickets had sold out as well. So Stubhub is where to look next.
Consider it a pretty solid investment. It’s basically a once in a lifetime opportunity to see Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy all tee it up in a U.S. Open Championship at one of the most revered golf courses in the world — Merion, a place that hasn’t seen a major in 32 years — which just happens to be in Philadelphia’s backyard.
Stay tuned for additional U.S. Open coverage throughout the week.
2013 U.S. Open Championship
When: June 10-16, 2013; Practice Rounds June 10-12; Championship Rounds June 13-16
Where: Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, PA
More info: www.usopen.com
Hole 18, par 4, 521 yards: The finishing hole at Merion was was made famous by Ben Hogan's 1-iron in the 1950 U.S. Open. Today, there's a plaque in the middle of the 18th fairway marking the spot of that famous shot. At 521 yards, the 18th hole at Merion is the third longest par 4 in U.S. Open history. (Photo Copyright USGA/John Mummert)