A Comparison: 2013 U.S. Open vs. 1981 U.S. Open
Equipment PGA Tour Tiger Woods News U.S. Open

A Comparison: 2013 U.S. Open vs. 1981 U.S. Open

Merion Golf Club's East course hosts the U.S. Open this week for the first time in 32 years.

A lot has changed in the game of golf since then, so we here at Golf News Net decided to have a little fun and make some comparisons about the sport, the course and the world between 1981 and 2013.

At the '81 Open, Jack Nicklaus had only won 17 majors -- He would go majorless after the 1980 PGA Championship at Oak Hill (site to this year's PGA Championship). The Golden Bear finished T-6, seven shots behind David Graham at the '81 U.S. Open. A little under five years later, he'd win his last major at the '86 Masters. Tiger Woods was five years old.

Drivers have sure changed a lot -- Persimmon vs. titanium. Steel vs. graphite. Permanent screws vs. movable weights. Driver technology has evolved quite a bit in the three decades since the national championship last passed through Ardmore, Pa. Paul Azinger captured the difference very well with this picture on Twitter.

Aussie major winners look a little different -- Observe David Graham in 1981 and Adam Scott from a couple of months ago at Augusta National. (The last Aussie to win the U.S. Open was Geoff Ogilvy in 2006 at Winged Foot.)

Nay a holdover from the '81 U.S. Open -- When the '81 Open was played, it had only been 10 years since Lee Trevino beat Jack Nicklaus in a playoff at Merion for the title. A dozen players made the cut in both. Not a single player from the '81 Open is in this Open, however. Jay Don Blake is the oldest player at 54 years old.

Merion's quite a bit longer than in 1981 -- The Open venue will play to  a max length of 6,996 yards this week, though USGA executive director Mike Davis has said Merion could play considerably shorter. It's a shock to see an Open venue play under the 7,000-yard threshold these days, but this go-round at Merion is still some 500 yards longer than the '81 U.S. Open, where the East course played to a length of 6,544 yards.

"Bette Davis Eyes" -- Kim Carnes was atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart the week before the U.S. Open in 1981 with "Bette Davis Eyes." It enjoyed quite a run atop the chart, back before the compact disc was a thing. This week? "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Sounds like a song about rain and the flood-prone 11th hole at Merion.

"The Four Seasons" -- Plenty of meteorological jokes to be made in the popular music and films of U.S. Open Week 1981. "The Four Seasons" grossed the most money the week of the last Merion Open. We probably won't get winter at Merion this week (besides, it's coming on "Game of Thrones") but three seems likely. That week, the top-grossing movie pulled in $5,877,288. The purse this week is $7.5 million.

Who's No. 1? -- Tiger Woods is the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking this week. But the OWGR was five years away from even existing when the '81 Open began.

The winning score? -- In 1981, David Graham won the U.S. Open at 7 under par. That was 7-shot improvement over the 1971 score that led to a playoff between Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus. How much do you want to bet 14 under par wins this week?

About the author


Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]thegolfnewsnet.com

Ryan occasionally links to merchants of his choosing, and GNN may earn a commission from sales generated by those links. See more in GNN's affiliate disclosure.


Click here to post a comment