Palmer's grandson proud to earn major spot on merit

He does not bear the surname, he does not have the army, but Sam Saunders does boast the genes. Of all the potential storylines here this week none rivals that of Saunders winning the US Open title 51 years after his grandfather, Arnold Palmer.

This is the first major the 23-year-old will contest and it obviously means a great deal to the professional who has grown up in one of the game's most dominant shadows. This will be Saunders' eighth appearance on the PGA Tour this season; but this is different. As Saunders recognises, he's here purely because of his golf, not because of his heritage.

"I've played in a lot of Tour events," said Saunders, who came through the notoriously arduous qualifiers last week. "But I'm not dumb, I know why I get Tour exemptions. It's because of my granddad. So to have earned this just feels really good."

Arnie mentors Saunders – whose parents run Palmer's Bay Hill club near Orlando – on the mental side of the game but will probably not be at Congressional this week. "He wants me to do my own thing and not be worried about the swarm of people that would be around him," said Saunders. "I appreciate that."

Another qualifier with a famous relative is Steve Irwin, the son of Hale, the three-times US Open champion.