Title: Pushover? Puh-lease Merion may yield low scores this week, but don't worry: players will be plenty tested
Description: ARDMORE, Pa. -- There's rain, wind, hail, and a possible tornado coming. So let 'em come. We're at Merion Golf Club. Today's worthies will walk where Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam. Where Ben Hogan hit that shot. Where the imp Lee Trevino threw a (rubber) snake at Jack Nicklaus. Is this a golfer's heaven? Yes. Merion isn't great because history was made here. History was made here because Merion is great. Pete Dye said that. Smart guy. So it's not 7,000 yards? So it's irons off the tees, wedges in? So the fairways are squishy-wide and the greens are cushy dartboards because it has already rained a ton? Don't care. So it's an antique, a relic from another age, a major-championship golf course squeezed into 111 acres. It's leather helmets and no facemasks. It's woolen flannels and railroad cars. It's "Casablanca" with Bogart and Bergman. Love it. So Olan Dutra, winning the U.S. Open here in 1934, hit a 3-wood second shot to the 18th. Hogan in 1950 hit the 1-iron. David Graham in 1981 hit a 4-iron. Today's players , standing at the Hogan plaque, see a different shot. Listen to Graeme McDowell: "I hit a 3-hybrid. I remember thinking to myself, 'I'm sure Mr. Hogan is rolling in his grave right now.'" Time marches on, and here's the question most often asked here this week: "See a 62 out there?" Implied in the question -- the best Open round ever is a 63 by Johnny Miller 40 years ago -- is the idea that Merion, proud, old Merion, will be poor, pitiable Merion this week, defenseless against modern technology in the hands of athletes fitter and stronger than ever. Trevino said, "These players will take advantage of the (five) par-4s in the 300-something range." Then, with an old man's caution born of experience, he said, "But they better be straight." That will be the fun of this Open. There'll be birdies in bunches. Eight birdies and no bogeys gets you a 62. That is doable for these guys at 6,996 yards in conditions so forgiving that Trevino said, "Merion may not have its teeth." Still, it's the United States Open. Those words have their own teeth. Ernie Els, a two-time Open champion, anticipates a crowded leaderboard with numbers in the red. "If you're on your game," he said, "you're going to have a lot of birdie putts . . . You can put it in the fairway with an iron, from a 5-iron to a 3-iron, and then you've got quite a short second shot. . . You're going to see a lot more birdies than ever at U.S. Open venues."