A Tiger Woods victory at the US Open would provide a significant boost to the game. Those who question such a notion may have forgotten the level of global interest when Woods achieves success on the biggest stage given it has been five years since the world No1 triumphed at a major.
Yet for all the respective brilliance Ernie Els, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott have displayed in claiming the last three major championships, when Woods wins the rest of the world sits up and takes notice. The American is instantly identifiable, more than any other golfer and the vast majority of other sports stars. For an entire generation he retains an allure which should not be underestimated.
At Merion, Woods must prove something to himself – his return to the summit of the game can be endorsed by winning a 15th major. Albeit he has had serious injury problems as well as personal ones therein, at various points since 2008 Woods has been in with a chance of winning a major only to fall short.
Given his start to 2013, with four wins on the US PGA Tour already, there will be questions asked about Woods should he continue to stumble in majors. As the 37-year-old looks to continue his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ majors haul of 18, Merion offers a perfect opportunity.
“I think if he wins one this year Nicklaus’ record could be back on again,” says Colin Montgomer-ie. “But this year is vital, he has got to win one this year. Everyone says he’s back but no one will say he’s truly back until he wins another one.”
This US Open, at the famously narrow and short Pennsylvania course – it measures just under 7,000 yards – sees Woods established as the clear favourite.
“At Sawgrass I hit a few three woods that were going more than 300 yards because the conditions were right,” he explains. “If we get the same at Merion, where it dries out and you get the ball running with the slopes, getting the ball running 300 yards with three woods, that’s ample far to get you to the spots you need to get to.”
Scott Nye, who has been the head professional at Merion for 13 years, offers further insight into aspects of the course which should appeal to Woods.
“The player who has experience and patience has more of an opportunity to succeed than a less experienced player who might try to overpower the course,” he says.
“On a lot of holes, the fairways are not parallel to the tee, they sit at an angle, so regular shots can put a player in trouble.
And because the guys will be hitting shorter clubs from some tees, there is a bigger margin for error with their five or six iron into the greens than if they were hitting nine iron or wedge.
A potentially key aspect for the hopes of Woods and others is the weather after a large volume of rain fell on Monday and with the possibility it could return in the week.
“Rain would make a big difference to the player who hits it right down the middle as it would mean he could be much more aggressive,” says Nye.
Woods will hope to be the one who stays calm.
Once again, the eyes of the golfing world will be fixed on whether he can finally follow through on early promise and end his run without a major.