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Ben Hogan still No. 1 at Merion

Ben Hogan, center, smiles over a crowd and

Ben Hogan, center, smiles over a crowd and poses with his wife, Valerie, left, as he receives the U.S. Open Golf Championship trophy from James D. Standish, Jr., Detroit president of the United States Golf Association, in Ardmore, Pa. (June 11, 1950) Photo Credit: AP, 1950

ARDMORE, Pa. -- One of the oldest golf jokes is the one that says the thing to do during a lightning storm on a course is to hold up a 1-iron, "because,'' the punch line goes, "even God can't hit a 1-iron."

These days, the best pros do not even try. They are intrigued by the club that is the talk of Merion this week because of Ben Hogan's 1-iron shot to the course's 18th hole in 1950 and the iconic photo it produced. Hogan's 1-iron even made an appearance Tuesday, near the plaque marking the spot. Matt Adams of PGA Tour Network -- wearing white gloves -- brandished it for a photo.

Modern golfers have options rather than trying to use a club that is capable of sending the ball a long way but is also extremely difficult to use. Graeme McDowell, the 2010 Open champion, acknowledged accepting a challenge from Arnold Palmer to hit a 1-iron, "which was pretty nerve-wracking. I managed to hit the first one pretty good," he said.

Then again, during a casual round here a year ago, McDowell had a shot from the vicinity of the plaque. "I hit a 3-hybrid," he said. "I remember thinking to myself, 'I'm sure Mr. Hogan is rolling in his grave right now.' "

Phil a father first

Phil Mickelson left Merion Monday and went home to California so he could attend his daughter's eighth-grade graduation Wednesday. In a statement released by the U.S. Golf Association, Mickelson said that Amanda is speaking at the ceremony "and I always planned on being there for that."

Defending the course

Lee Trevino and David Graham, winners of the past two U.S. Opens at Merion in 1971 and 1981, respectively, were at the course Tuesday. Both acknowledged that the scores could be low because the greens have been softened by rain. Both also believe that should not affect Merion's reputation, or its status as a future Open site.

New York Sports