The US Open Championship is heading to Merion Golf Club, the shortest venue to host the event in nearly a decade. Given how fast technology changes in the game of golf, the field has developed an ability to reach greens they wouldn’t have been able to think of reaching when the century old course was designed.
In the battle of old school vs new school, technology vs history, the new age will emerge victorious. Scoring records will be set when the smoke clears at Merion Golf Club and the US Open crowns itself another champion. Birdies will be showcased by the flock this weekend, with players taking all sorts of risks because of their ability to power through the small course.
Although the vast majority of professional golfers have not yet played a tournament at Merion Golf Club, they will quickly learn to adapt to their new smaller surroundings. The eleven players that have played a round likely won’t have much of an advantage as a result. Phil Mickelson for instance, hasn’t played a competitive round at the course since a match play event 24 years ago.
However with a course small enough to measure under 7,000 yards and have four par fours that aren’t even 400 yards, the professionals will show that the game has evolved past old courses such as Merion. It is a sad fact that technology has so decidedly dominated the battle between modern golf and historic courses.
Most players today don’t even bother carrying the long irons that played such an integral role in the finesse game the course initially required from its players. The emergence of the hybrid has given players an unfair advantage over their course, adding length and control. Some players on the tour have even forgone carrying a four iron, once a standard in the bag of every golfer.
Those hoping the old course conquers the players this week, resulting in reasonable score cards being turned in base their argument on the fact that players aren’t often required to rely on control and finesse instead of power on tour. However the length of the course will give players the cushion they need to use their power to destroy the course.
Many players in the US Open can easily drive the ball 300 yards, a course as short as Merion isn’t built to contain such a shot, and as a result many players will have the chance to light up the score board in record fashion. Greens in regulation will be the standard, and this championship will come down to who can knock in the most of their plentiful birdie puts.
Players on tour this year are hitting over 60 percent of fairways collectively, making it likely that despite the small confines of Merion Golf Club, players will be able to dial in their targets and give themselves many shots at scoring this weekend.
So the little course of Merion Golf Club may allow record setting scores at the US Open this weekend, but it will be a fair challenge for all that enter. Even if scores approach 20 under par by weeks end, the event will no doubt be an exciting and hard fought competition throughout the four rounds, eventually crowning a new major champion and bringing some glory back to a century old course.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express
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