Merion Golf Club opened the gates Sunday to fans who wanted to buy U.S. Open merchandise. Some of them got a free glimpse of Tiger Woods.
But not for long.
Woods played 13 holes under hazy sunshine, far different conditions from what he saw two weeks ago in the wind and rain that made the shortest U.S. Open course in nine years feel much longer. He was among a scattering of players who spent a lazy afternoon getting to know a golf course that last held a major championship 32 years ago.
But while no one in the field played in that 1981 U.S. Open that David Graham won with a flawless final round, Kevin Chappell is among those getting reacquainted.
Chappell played four competitive rounds in 2005 during the U.S. Amateur, the litmus test for the USGA to make sure Merion was still current with the modern game. He lost in the third round that year, and while the surroundings look different with the grandstands and hospitality areas, one thing hasn't changed.
"It's a tour event on steroids," Chappell said.
Merion is 6,996 yards on the scorecard, making it the first major championship under 7,000 yards since Shinnecock Hills (also 6,996 yards) for the 2004 U.S. Open. But the yardage can be deceiving. One of the par 5s is 628 yards, and Geoff Ogilvy figured there would be dozens of players who struggle to reach the green in three shots, much less get home in two. It has a par 3 of only 115 yards — the other par 3s all are over 240 yards.
And perhaps the biggest change from most recent U.S. Opens is the rough. It's long and thick.
"The rough is longer than we've seen," said Ogilvy, who had never seen Merion until arriving this weekend. "You can't make grass grow in four days, but you can cut. Although I don't think they will."