Darren Clarke is cautiously optimistic about the stern test that Merion will provide ahead of his first US Open appearance since 2009.
The Northern Irishman says the second major of the golf season is always special, and is hoping to make up for lost time, having missed the flagship tournament last year because of a groin injury.
"It's always a special tournament," said the 44-year-old. "This year the course is going to be a little bit different. It's a little bit shorter but I'm sure they're going to make up for it in different ways.
"The rough is going to be thicker than ever and they're going to try and protect the golf course a little bit."
He added: "I've played the course a few times before. They say it's short but the last few holes are pretty long, so it'll be a good week. They don't give you any margin for error at all.
"With the rough as thick as it is, and around the greens it's the same sort of thing. The test is always very, very stern."
Clarke has already backed his compatriot Graeme McDowell to be in amongst the frontrunners in Pennsylvania this year, and the 2011 Open Champion hopes he'll turn in a strong performance of his own after missing the Masters at Augusta at the start of 2013, after suffering a hamstring injury.
"I'm looking forward to it," he continued. "It's where I want to play and what I want to do. I've just got to keep hitting the ball the way that I am and hopefully I'll have a really good week.
"Because I missed a lot of golf at the start of the season, I'm not competitively sharp. But I'm working hard and will keep doing what I'm doing. I played not bad at Wentworth a couple of weeks ago and I'm happy with the way I'm swinging the club. I've just got to get back into scoring mode again."
Clarke's best finish at the US Open came when he finished tied-tenth back in 1999, but he has reason to believe he can go better more than a decade on.
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