Aug 03, 2007

Merion Golf Club hosts 2007 Open Championship

Do you remember…   Two of the most famous moments in golfing history occurred at Merion Golf Club. Bob Jones completed the Grand Slam and Ben Hogan returned from a serious automobile accident to capture one of the most thrilling Opens in history.

Sept. 27, 1930
  Bob Jones completed the Grand Slam with an 8&7 victory over Eugene Homans. None of Jones five matches went past the 14th hole. In the 36-hole final, Jones was 7-up after the first 18. In 1944, American sportswriters named the Grand Slam the “outstanding sports achievement of all time.” In 1950, the Associated Press voted it “the supreme athletic achievement of this century.”
  At the time, Jones was indisputably the best golfer in the world. He had won three U.S. Opens, four U.S. Amateurs and two British Opens by this point in his career. The one significant championship that had eluded him was the British Amateur. Because the Walker Cup was scheduled to be played in England in 1930, with the USGA covering team member Jones’ expenses for the trip, an opportunity arose for Jones to play in the British Amateur and British Open while traveling. When Jones won the British Amateur at the Old Course in May at St. Andrews, the British Open at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake in June, and then the U.S. Open at Interlachen Country Club in July, all eyes turned toward Merion.

June 1950
  Ben Hogan, who endured life-threatening injuries in a car accident in February, 1949, fulfilled his mission to once again win a national championship with an exhilarating victory in the 1950 U.S. Open Championship. The format at the time called for a 36-hole finish on Saturday. Many, including Hogan, wondered whether he could sustain good play on his damaged legs. Hogan was two strokes back after the third round, but the final 18 holes would be difficult for him. When he reached the 12th tee he was leading by three strokes. After his tee shot his legs locked. Hogan limped over to where a friend, Harry Radix, stood in the crowd and said to him, “My God, Harry, I don’t think I can finish.”
  Three-putt greens on 12 and 15 took away two from Hogan’s lead, then another bogey on 17 put him in a tie for the lead with Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio. Hogan now needed to make par on the longest par-4 hole on the course just to tie the leaders. Reminiscing in 1971, Hogan recalled how he played the finishing hole: “The 18th is a very long par 4. You had to go all out with a driver, then hit all you had to the green. The pin was cut on the right side of the green, behind a bunker. So I thought about cutting a 4-wood in there, reconsidered, and hoped to reach the front of the green with a 1-iron, which I did.” Fazio saw Hogan’s approach shot and called it the greatest shot he had ever seen. He two putted from 40 feet to tie the leaders and put himself into a playoff. Another par a day later on the 18th hole of the playoff sealed the victory for Hogan, who scored 69 to Mangrum’s 73 and Fazio’s 75. Courtesy of USGA/Merion Golf Club

By Rick Woelfel

  Under any circumstances, the day of the Philadelphia Open is the most significant occasion on the Golf Association of Philadelphia calendar. That should certainly be the case this year when the Open is played for the 103rd time on Monday, Aug. 6.

  The championship will be the largest in recent years, with 72 players competing, rather than the customary 60. It will be the most lucrative in history, with a $40,000 purse. The defining element of this year’s Open however will be the venue, the East Course at Merion GC.

 Following a renovation, the club hosted the 2005 U.S. Amateur Championship and preparations are well underway for the 2009 Walker Cup and the 2013 U.S. Open Championship. Against that backdrop, this year’s Philadelphia Open Championship promises to be crackling with tradition and intensity.

  No one is more excited by that prospect than defending champion Dave Quinn. The director of golf at Links Golf Club in Marlton, N.J., Quinn defeated Mike Ladden, then of Philadelphia Country Club, in a four-hole aggregate playoff at Llanerch CC last July after both players finished the regulation 36 holes at 3-under-par 139.

  Quinn will be attempting to become the first man to successfully defend the Open title since Frank Dobbs of Spring Ford Country Club won it back-to-back in 1991-92.

  Two years ago, Merion GC played to 6,887 yards for the U.S. Amateur, with a par of 70. Edoardo Molinari won the title by playing the last 15 holes of the championship match in the equivalent of 7-under par, but during the stroke-play portion of the event, none of the 256 players in the field shot lower than 69.

  Over the course of the 36 holes in the Open, Merion GC is certain to extract a toll on the field and Quinn expects to pay his share. “They could set it up so that 10-over par wins,” he said. ” A lot of courses have some holes that are easier and some that are harder. Par is a great score at every hole at Merion GC.”

  Quinn points out that because the GAP is able to keep players updated on scores as the day progresses, it’s easier for the players to stay patient and not worry about occasional misfortune. “If you get to 2, 3 or 4-over par, you can see that that’s happening to everybody,” he said. “You can play patient golf and try to make par.”

  The qualifying procedure for this year’s championship was modified. Instead of reserving 45 spots in the field for professionals and 15 for amateurs, the GAP conducted three open qualifiers, to fill 43 spots in the field. A total of 29 players were exempt from qualifying.

  The Philadelphia Open Championship was first played in 1903. It came to Merion, then Cricket Club, for the first time in 1913, a year after Hugh Wilson’s masterpiece was completed. That same year the championship became a 72-hole medal-play test. Two-time U.S. Open champion Johnny McDermott prevailed with a winning score of 305. The tournament would remain at 72 holes through 1939 and during that span was the equivalent of a PGA Tour event, with a list of champions that included McDermott, Long Jim Barnes, Johnny Farrell (twice) and Tommy Armour.

  The tournament’s present format was adopted in 1940.

  The last amateur to win the championship was Chris Lange of Overbrook GC in 2004.

  All media are welcome.

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