June 12 2013
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist
For migratory tournaments like the U.S. Open, direct correlations between winners aren't fair. Meanwhile, for venues like Merion Golf Club that have hosted multiple U.S. Opens, too much time transpires between editions for apples-to-apples comparisons to remain relevant. The season's second major has been contested four times previously at Merion, but not since 1981.
Even during ordinary weeks when we analyze how recent winners performed inside their scorecards, many variables prevent tales of the tape in a vacuum. However, there are notions and assumptions made in advance of every U.S. Open.
When you think of the primary goal to succeed, hitting fairways often leads the way. However, the last winner to finish inside the top 10 in driving accuracy the week of his victory was Michael Campbell at Pinehurst in 2005. He tied for eighth. Four of the seven since placed outside the top 25. Hitting greens in regulation always matters, but only three of the last eight (2005-2012) cracked their top 10s in GIR. Rory McIlroy was the only to lead his field (at Congressional in 2011).
ShotLink measurements are not recorded in majors, which means that our peek at strokes gained-putting takes a week off, but the last six champions of the U.S. Open ranked inside the top 10 in putts per GIR en route to victory. But again, because each edition was held on a different course, that's merely a coincidence.
Similar spray charts appear for distance off the tee (five inside the top 10 since 2005; three outside the top 30), scrambling (four inside the top 10) and par-3/4/5 scoring (only Campbell and Angel Cabrera, at Oakmont in 2007, placed inside the top 10 in each).
Another common phrase connected to this tournament is that it always identifies the best golfer of the week. Weather played a role as recently as 2009 when Lucas Glover emerged from the better half of the draw to win at Bethpage. That's an angle that many think may be repeated at Merion. Whatever happens, the champion will have forged a previously unchartered trail toward the trophy.