Open Champion Ernie Els knows better than most that patience can be the key to winning a Major Championship and the South African has been quietly biding his time before tackling Merion Golf Club.
Els had a glimpse of the unique venue some seven years ago at a sponsor’s event and admits he ‘loves’ the idea of the US Open being held at the historic Pennsylvania course for the first time since 1981.
After arriving early, adverse weather conditions have so far limited his playing opportunities, but have failed to dampen his appetite to tackle the 6,996-yard course.
“I actually came up here on Saturday but the course was closed, but I got to play a lot of holes on Sunday and really got a really good feel for Merion,” he said. “There are quite a few blind holes and blind tee shots out there where you've really got to get your lines. I got that out of the way. I kind of got the flow of the course a little bit.
“It is just a wonderful historic venue. And it's just great to be here. I think all the players feel the same way.”
A two-time US Open Champion, Els also added a second Claret Jug to his haul of Major Championship when he won last year’s Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes, ten years after his first at Muirfield.
With all the rain that has fallen at Merion over the weekend, Els is expecting to have to make plenty of birdies if he is to win a fifth Major this week when he starts his campaign alongside defending champion Webb Simpson and US Amateur Champion Steven Fox.
“We're going to have a soft golf course this week, all week,” he said. “It means that if you're on your game, you're going to have a lot of birdie putts. There are quite a few par fours where you've just got to put it in the fairway. You can put it in the fairway with an iron, from a five‑iron to a three‑iron, just putting it into play, and then you've got quite a short second shot.
“I can see pin placements are going to be quite tough to protect the course. You're going to see a lot more birdies than ever at US Open venues. But the finish is still very strong.”
Els finished one shot clear of his friend Adam Scott to win the Open Championship last year, but Scott subsequently joined him in the exclusive club of Major Champions by winning the Masters Tournament in April.
World Number Three Scott now joins the only two players above him on the Official World Golf Ranking, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, for the first two rounds this week, and he hopes that finally landing his maiden Major can give him the platform to go on to win again.
“It's a good feeling to come here to know that I've achieved that,” he said. “I've got my first Major. And my sights are definitely set on trying to win more.
“I'm looking forward to seeing how I feel playing for the first time in a Major after having won, to see if there's less pressure or if up I'm going to put more pressure on myself, I don't really know.
“For me, it's a very exciting time in my career, where hopefully I can make the most of all the things that I've been working for and take advantage of the momentum of winning the Masters and that good form.”
Scott visited Merion three weeks prior to the start of the US Open, and, like Els, he is looking forward to the challenge of playing the unfamiliar Merion.
“It's a big part of golfing history, and everyone knows that's a big reason why the USGA has come back here, and probably rightly so,” he said. “I think at the moment it's just all very disappointing with the weather. But hopefully we can get a bit lucky and it can dry out and we can get a really good test over the weekend.
“It's nice to come to these places that have played such a big part in golf's history because we don't get to do it that much.
“I think most of us appreciate the history of the game and understand everything that's happened before.”