The 2013 US Open will return to Merion Golf Club for the first time since 1981. Starting Thursday, the current crop of the best golfers in the world will be treated to an old-school course rich in tradition, with closed oval-shaped baskets atop the pins instead of traditional flags.
Merion plays at just under 7,000 yards so golfers will not be challenged with length off the tee box this weekend, but that doesn't mean there aren't challenges awaiting once ball leaves tee. Accuracy will be key and staying out of the thick rough and many bunkers must be a focus over the four days of tournament play. Balls will be challenging to find in the rough, no matter how many eyes are searching and landing in the bunker means battling the raised edges of the sand hazards. No easy task, to be sure.
All is well that ends well, but the greens at Merion will not be treating golfers to easy hole conclusions by any means. Golf.com's Michael Bamberger reported the greens will register in the low 14s on the Stimpmeter scale this week. Weather conditions will be a big factor in how fast golfers will have to gauge their putts.
The course itself is registered as a National Historic Landmark and over 150 golfers will tee off on Thursday to try and mark their place in US Open history. That scenario alone makes the 113th US Open must-see, for the drama will be vast even in the cozy quarters of Merion Golf Club.
As is custom with any major championship, the full-throttled debate on who will win is the desired talk a day before the tournament begins.
I scanned the major golf sites to see who was picking and who and here's the consensus:
1. Surprise, surprise, the majority have their money on Tiger Woods, who won his last major in 2008 at the US Open.
2. Graeme McDowell is getting a lot of support as well and many believe his great year is about to get better.
3. Phil Mickelson should never be considered a dark horse, but the number of votes he's getting suggest he's on people's minds but is a long shot.
4. Those who did not go with the obvious - and boring picks - have an eye on Jason Day, Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson.
Logic says one of those golfers will be the winner, but there is no logic in golf, especially when it comes to making picks. "Expert" picks, as they call them on main stream sites.
Now, for the "Non-Expert," "Junior Varsity" picks... aka mine:
1. Rory McIlroy - No one is talking about him, so why not?
2. Jason Dufner - "Dufnering" next to a basket pin on 18 on Sunday? Yes, please
3. Phil Mickelson - Old reliable, just like Merion. Just be smart off the tee, Lefty.
Past 5 US Open Champions, so you can sound smart when you talk about golf with your friends this weekend:
2012 - Webb Simpson; 2011 - Rory McIlroy; 2010 - Graeme McDowell; 2009 - Lucas Glover; 2008 - Tiger Woods
Thursday: 9am-3pm ESPN, 3pm-5pm NBC, 5pm-7pm ESPN
Friday: 9am-3pm ESPN, 3pm-5pm NBC, 5pm-7pm ESPN
Saturday: 1pm-7:30pm NBC
Sunday: 1pm-7:30pm NBC