The U.S. Open Championship returns to the iconic Merion Golf Club in suburban Philadelphia this week and expect the scores to soar. This an old-school golf course designed in 1910 by Hugh Wilson.
The narrow fairways and the lighting-fast greens will challenge the world's best golfers. After all, that is exactly what a U.S. Open course is supposed to do, and we expect that Merion will not disappoint.
ESPN and NBC will have all four days of the second major of 2013 covered from the first shot Thursday through the final putt on Sunday. There will be a combined 110 hours of coverage between NBC and the Golf Channel.
ESPN has live coverage Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and again from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., with NBC picking up the coverage between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
NBC takes over Saturday and Sunday with live coverage from noon to 7:30 p.m.
NBC and Golf Channel analyst Roger Maltbie was on hand Monday at Merion for a chat. We talked about this most challenging course and how the key to winning at this beautiful venue will be accuracy.
What makes Merion such a demanding course?
Maltbie » "I think the middle of the golf course is where the players are going to have to make up ground. The finish is brutally hard. 16, 17 and 18 are three of the hardest finishing holes you'll ever see, and that is not to make light of 14 and 15, but 16, 17, 18 are really strong. It's also going to be a very narrow golf course. I think the average fairway is going to be like 23 yards wide. So the fairways are going to be tiny and hard to hit."
How will this old-school course affect the play?
Maltbie » "I think there are going to be a lot of young guys that potentially could get schooled here. They're not used to seeing these old-style golf courses. The courses they play are bigger in scale, longer, much longer, and they're used to bombing away. This course is more about finesse."
So who is likely to win?
Maltbie » "Tiger Woods is always the favorite, but let's look at who might do well on this course. Steve Stricker could get his first major here; a shorter course suits his game. Both Zach Johnson and Graeme McDowell are the kinds of guy that, to me, this golf course presents a great opportunity to win."
Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @wordmandc.