Chris Berman will cover his 27th U.S. Open Golf Championship this week when ESPN presents first and second-round play of the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club near Philadelphia (Thursday and Friday: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. ET).
Berman will be joined by NBC’s Roger Maltbie in the 18th hole booth on Thursday and Friday, and he will host ESPN’s weekend highlights programs. In anticipation of golf’s second major — and one of the most popular events on the annual sports calendar — the Front & Center podcast above features a conversation with Berman about the U.S. Open where he expresses his appreciation for the event and how challenging it is for the world’s top golfers.
On why Payne Stewart’s win at Pinehurst remains one of his favorite U.S. Open memories . . .
“It was symbolic because it was 1999, and the challengers were Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, guys in their 20s, and Payne, as kind of a 20th-century representative, held off the guys who were going to be the stars in the 21st century in this last Open of the 20th century.”
On how difficult the U.S. Open is for golfers . . .
“You have to be exact. One little mental slip-up is a double bogey and there goes the tournament.”
On what makes the U.S. Open so special . . .
“It is truly an Open. You’ve gotta be great but if you are a one-handicap golfer, you can step up and try to make it. That’s a big part of it. . . The second part of it is it’s played in a different place every year and often an historical place. Merion, for example this year, Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan — there are plaques for both of them. Well, that’s golf.”
On what he expects this week at Merion . . .
“You come to 14 with a two or even a three-shot lead, making par on those to finish out with a lead and the pressure like that is going to be very rough. There’s a par 3 at 17 that’s about 260, and it’s not a lot of run-up . . . Like all U.S. Opens, you better be exact and better have a plan and better follow it. And the balls are going to go in the rough pretty quickly.”
On his early pick to win at Merion . . .
“He doesn’t play so much on the Tour any more — I don’t want to say half-retired, but you don’t see him much — but he’s one of the nicest people out there. That’s Steve Stricker. He hits it pretty long. He’s very straight. . . Steve, in his 40s, has been a really good golfer. This may be one of the last times he has a chance to win a major.”