“Thoughts from Torrey Pines”
They tee off today at the prestigious links that are Torrey Pines, and lots of thoughts from the press tent.
The Grand Slam Events come in all sizes, shapes, colors, descriptions.
The Masters is about A-Men’s corner, the Butler Cabin, the Green Jacket, the Azaleas and the history of Augusta.
The British Open is about the legacy of the links courses, the weather, the history of good ole Tom Moore, the bunkers, the heather growth, the wind off the sea, blustery weather, rain and the history of playing in Scotland, England and Ireland.
The PGA Championship carries its reputation of the growth of the sport and a salute to the heritage of historical courses.
The US Open is not so much about the golf course, as it is the obstacle course that is created by the USGA. Call it the ‘integrity of par factor’. Tight fairways, slick as ice greens, enormous rough, and the ability to scramble and recover from troubling shots..
Torrey Pines South will be an enormous challenge. The beauty as you gaze out from the press tent towards the ocean is special. It belies how tough these next four days of golf will be , as these 156-golfers will take on, chasing the title and the 2.5M payday to the winner.
The re-designed South course now stretches to an enormous (7,525) yards now a par 71-course. There are 56-bunkers. The fairways are tight. The rough has been grown out to 6-inches just off the green. Miss a fairway and you are in trouble and a mess.
Fair warning, all those guys who play here in January at the Farmer’s Insurance Open are in for shock. This course will play different and will take your bogeys, and the scoreboard will be full of green, not red scores, if you cannot keep it on the fairway, when tee to green becomes a tale of woe, and when you don’t sink putts and birds wind up being bogeys.
Think about the last time they played here. Tiger Woods, broken leg and all, won the Open here, and was one of only two golfers who broke par for the four days. That was 2006, and the course has been rebuilt and now the USGA has added its changes. Mix with tonic water, and you have a real bogey-fest coming.
It might be easy in years gone by to name a favorite. But now, likely impossible.
Phil Mickelson comes off the PGA-title win in South Carolina, his 6th Grand Slam win. But he has never won the US Open, anytime, anyplace. He’s finished second 6-times in this tourney, with gruesome finishes washing away whatever good memories he had of past Opens.
He lost at Pinehurst in ’99 on the 15th hole.
He had 10-birdies in 31-holes at Bethpage Black but did not close in ’02.
Shinnecock Hills claimed him with a failure at 17 in ’04.
Wingedfoot in New York wiped him out at 18 in ’06
Bethpage Black saw him lose it at 17 in ’09
And the worst of all were two double bogeys the final day at Merion in ’13.
So you can see why they say Mickelson has a ‘love-hate’ relationship with the tourney, and even what used to be his home course, Torrey Pines, where he has not won since 2001.
Big names and big problems are other places on the leaderboard.
There is no Tiger Woods, likely never to play again, hoping at least to be able to walk.
Jon Rahm was taken off the course two weeks ago with a Covid positive test, despite the fact he had the disease once, and was vaccinated. He has had just 2-days of practice.
Dustin Johnson was ranked #1 in the world, but is coming off a 7-week battle with the virus.
Jason Day, formerly a number 1-ranked star, has had back problems two years in a row.
Brooks Koepka has had injuries to both knees.
Rory McIlroy-who knows where his head and game are these days.
Bryson DeChambeau, the mad bomber, does not align up well with the long-but-tight course.
Xander Schaufele has not scaled the mountain to the top yet in a Grand Slam event..
Collin Morikawa is playing well, but not yet in the major tourneys.
Jordan Spieth seems to have rallied from a two year drought, but this is a four day grind that grows tougher as the weekend moves on.
Come Sunday we might not be crowning a winner but rather saluting a survivor of the course.
It might be the most wide-open US Open we have seen in a long time.
Torrey Pines is so beautiful for the fans and media to walk, watch and cover. Guarantee you it’s going to be so hard for these superstars on the tour.
That’s what the US Open is supposed to be. You earn this win, or maybe better said, to survive this to win it.