US Open golf: Likely themes

We look at the likely themes of what promises to be a very old-school week at Merion

This is Tiger’s best chance yet to make it 15

When Tiger won on one leg at Torrey Pines in 2008 little did we suppose, five years on, that it would be his last Major win.
There have been eight top 10s and two missed cuts since then, but no prized W to move him one step closer to Jack’s 18.
But things are a little more like the old days now; this year is his best start to any season and his four victories have confirmed that a) he is back to something like his best and b) the rest of the field know that.
This of course brings its own pressures and he will know better than anyone that now is the time to cash in. The bookies certainly agree; Woods is 4-1, McIlroy 12s with the rest of the field around the 25-1 mark and beyond.  

The course will present a refreshingly unusual test

For the first time since Shinnecock Hills in 2004 we have a course which measures under 7,000 yards. In recent times we have had tests more around the 7,500 mark at Torrey Pines, Bethpage Black and Congressional but Merion is unique on the US Open rota.
There are six par 4s under 400 yards and four over 450 yards – so there is very little middle ground. So there will be birdies, and lots of them in places, and then there will be some very tough holes and possibly big numbers.
Three of the par 3s follow a similar pattern: they measure 236, 246 and 256 yards. The other is just 115 yards.
As for the par 5s, there are only two of them and they both come in the first four holes.
So, plenty of wedges into greens and irons off tees.
But, as ever, anything around par at the end of the week will be very well placed.

Very few players know the course well            

The horses for courses method of picking likely contenders won’t help you much at Merion. The last US Open here was in 1981 and there has been no PGA Tour event either.
Otherwise you are looking for a glimmer of form from either the 2009 Walker Cup or 2005 US Amateur. Rickie Fowler played in the former but although he recorded four wins from four outings, it would take a leap of faith to consider this as telling.
Defending champion Webb Simpson was part of the US Amateur field here, losing to Anthony Kim in the second round of the matchplay stages. He has calculated that there are nine wedge opportunities in the first 13 holes and then you have to batten down the hatches.

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