U.S. Open to be held at Merion in 2013

PHILADELPHIA -- Hogan, Jones, Nicklaus and Trevino are part
of Merion Golf Club history. Now, a new generation of golfers will
get a chance to leave their mark at the venerable club in the 2013
U.S. Open.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Golf Association officially selected the
historic club as the site of the 2013 national championship. It is
the fifth Open for the course in suburban Philadelphia that has
held 17 USGA events, the most of any club.
"The membership of Merion Golf Club is very excited and proud
to have been chosen by the USGA as the host site of the 2013 U.S.
Open Championship," Merion's championship committee chairman Bill
Iredale said in a statement.
The 120-acre layout was, for years, believed to be too small --
in length and size -- to accommodate the trappings of the U.S. Open.
But the USGA is confident the 6,800-yard Hugh Wilson-designed East
Course can hold its own against golf's best. Winged Foot's West
Course, site of this year's Open, will play more than 7,200 yards
to a par of 70.
"We feel that our East Course is a very special venue, a
classic golf course which, while lengthened some 400 yards to
accommodate modern players and equipment, still retains the same
shot angles, bunkering and greens that challenged Bob Jones in
1930, Ben Hogan in 1950, Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus in 1971 and
David Graham in 1981," Iredale said.
Merion's tiny greens, thick rough and lengthened layout proved
to be a formidable test for some of the best long-hitting
nonprofessionals at the 2005 U.S. Amateur.
"They've always had great holes, a number of great layup holes
where you weren't using driver off the tee," said David Fay,
executive director of the USGA. "But they've been able to make
their long, stout holes -- the ones that have been known throughout
history -- they've made them really long. So I think they have
adapted so well to the changing nature of the game."
The club instituted a 10-year plan to prepare for the Amateur,
and always had an eye on a possible Open. Leading up to the
Amateur, hundreds of trees were removed, the East course was closed
for a year to re-grass the greens, all bunkers were restored, 14
holes were lengthened and fairways were realigned to bring hazards
into play.
The result: Only six players scored in the 60s on the par-70
layout during the stroke-play portion of the Amateur.
The USGA is also confident Merion can handle the logistics of an
Open. While it might mean limiting daily crowds, officials will
find space for a corporate village, merchandise tent, trophy room
and media.
The USGA said the exact number of spectator tickets has not been
determined for the 2013 event, but the total should exceed the
18,000 daily tickets sold for the 1981 Open.
"While Merion is not a huge physical facility, we are confident
that we'll be able to conduct a complete U.S. Open operation
outside the ropes," said Jim Hyler, chairman of the USGA
championship committee. "The cooperation, enthusiasm and resources
of the surrounding community remain the major reasons why we are
able to do so."
Merion hosted its last Open in 1981, which was won by David
Graham. The Amateur has been played at the club six times, and the
Women's Amateur has been held there four times. The club is also
scheduled to host the Walker Cup in 2009.
The course renowned for red wicker baskets atop its flagsticks
and sand hazards known as the "white faces of Merion" has been
the site of some of golf's most memorable moments.
Bobby Jones played his first U.S. Amateur at Merion as a
14-year-old and returned 10 years later to claim his first Amateur
title. Seventy-six years ago at Merion, he completed the "Grand
Slam" by winning the 1930 Amateur to go along with the U.S. Open,
British Open and British Amateur.
There's a plaque commemorating Jones' final competitive hole at
Merion's 11th tee. It was on that hole he closed out Eugene Homans
8 and 7 in the 36-hole final.
Ben Hogan also left his mark at Merion.
A little more than a year after surviving a horrible car crash,
Hogan came to the 72nd hole of the 1950 U.S. Open needing a par to
force a playoff. In one of golf's most enduring photos, Hogan is
pictured, from behind, hitting a 1-iron from the 18th fairway to a
green ringed by spectators. He went on to two-putt for par and won
a three-way playoff the next day.
Before the start of a playoff for the 1971 Open, Lee Trevino
pulled a prank on Jack Nicklaus, tossing a rubber snake at his feet
while on the first tee.