ARDMORE, Pa. - The affection was genuine. Even better was beating Jack Nicklaus in a playoff. So when Lee Trevino got his hands on that U.S. Open trophy in 1971, the guy who never lacked for one-liners gushed, "I love Merion, and I don't even know her last name."
For this generation of stars, Merion is more like a blind date. No other course with four U.S. Opens had to wait such a long time - 32 years - for another chance to test the world's best players. Even with Tiger Woods back to No. 1 and winning at a ridiculous rate, so much of the talk at this major championship has been about Merion.
For years, it was considered too small to handle such a big tournament and big hitters with modern equipment. And with soft greens from more than 6 inches of rain in the last week, the question is whether the course will yield the kind of scores rarely seen at the toughest test in golf.
Merion already took a beating Friday when more than 3 inches of rain sent water over the edges of some bunkers and left small streams on fairways and greens. More rain Monday caused the course to be closed three times.
The forecast called for increasing clouds, gusts and showers this morning, with stronger storms later.
Whether a golf course is big or small, soft greens typically are a recipe for low scores.
Merion measures 6,996 yards on the scorecard - the shortest of any major championship in nine years - and has a stretch of seven holes in the middle that are short even by yesterday's standards. Compare those holes with the scorecard from when Ben Hogan won the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion, and four of those holes were actually longer by a few yards in Hogan's day.
And with the rain, it's reminiscent of how Congressional was vulnerable two years ago, when Rory McIlroy shattered U.S. Open scoring records at 16 under.
• What: U.S. Open
• Where: Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pa.
• TV: ESPN at 6 a.m.; Ch 4 at noon, ESPN at 2 p.m.