The strongest memory of the last US Open was at Torrey Pines with three words describing what golf was like then and now.
This scene was the 18th hole in the final round of 2008. The results were as clear as the afternoon sky over San Diego in June.
Tiger Woods, who had torn his way around the South Course on a torn ligament and a double stress fracture in his left foot, suffered a 12-foot birdie putt. Build it and he will be bound for the playoffs against Rocco Mediate. Miss it and he will lose.
When the putt somehow folded to the right side of the cup and Woods triple-clutched his arms in celebration of Raw, NBC’s Dan Hicks said, “Expecting something different?”
Woods was the only force on one foot in golf, even in the toughest Test golf offers.
Now? Expect a lot.
The 121st US Open returns to Torrey Pines, a city-owned course along Pacific Bluffs on June 17-20, and no one can tell what might happen.
Two of the world’s best players, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, went into the final week after not recording that much in the top 10 over the past three months. Jon Rahm is No. 3 in the world and a past winner at Torrey Pines. His 10-day self-isolation from a positive COVID-19 test ends two days before the opening round.
The defending champion is Bryson DeChambeau, the most out-of-the-box golfer in decades, whose road map was to hit the driver to victory in the winged foot last September, regardless of whether he got the fairway. .
The sentimental favorite is Phil Mickelson, who turned 51 on the eve of the US Open. He accepted a special exemption from being out of the world’s top 100 for the first time in nearly 30 years. And then he won the PGA Championship a week later to become the oldest major champion in history.
A six-time runner-up at the US Open, it is the only major to keep Mickelson from a career Grand Slam.
“I know I’m playing well and this could be my last very good chance to win the US Open. So I’m going to put my all into it,” Mickelson said.
What to expect Torrey Pines is the kind of test that defines the old-fashioned US Open. This is one of the strongest courses on the PGA Tour in January when the turf is softer and there is less respect for winning scores.
Throw in the USGA, narrow fairways, dry June air, and 7,652 yards on a South Course that plays every length at sea level. This is what all players want.
“I don’t think the USGA has to do much to make it very difficult,” Louis Osthuizen said, adding that “it’s already a tough golf course.”
Much had been said about Winged Foot last year, with New York’s course receiving only two 72-hole scores in the last five US Opens, the equivalent of 750 players who tried. And then DeChambeau won by six shots at 6-under 274, the lowest score ever on the winged foot.
Whether this is a blueprint for any US Open remains to be seen.
“If it plays the same way, where you can bomb it in some places and play at a better angle, then I’m going to do it,” DeChambe said. “If they make it that way, I’ll keep playing that way.”
In the last 50 years only two players have won the US Open in consecutive years – Curtis Strange (1988-89) and Brooks Koepka (2017-18). DeChambeau would love nothing more than to join them, and this may be the last word in his social media riff with Koepka.
It’s been just as entertaining in golf since the PGA Championship. Someone leaked an undocumented Golf Channel interview with Koepka in which he rolls his eyes when he sees DeChambeau following him, pauses the interview and then uses salty language to express his disdain for DeChambeau. Uses up.
It’s rare for players to be so public with controversy. DeChambeau said it was “flattering” that Koepka seemed so obsessed with him, while Koepka made no apologies and even suggested that their feud was fueling an interest in golf.
“The fact that golf has been on almost every news outlet consistently for about two weeks, I think is a good thing,” Koepka said. “This game is growing.”
It has the potential to be a sideshow at the US Open, a major that can create substantial plays on its own as it tries to identify the best player along a course that can be extreme.
This is not a direct comparison as the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines includes a round on the North Course. Still, Woods was 14 shots more at the US Open than he won by eight shots at a PGA Tour event in 2008.
“The biggest difference is how firm the greens are,” said Jordan Spieth. “I have seen forecast for cold nights, 75 degrees and no rain, so they can do whatever they want (with the setup). I don’t know if fairways will be narrower, but they will play more narrow. I think there will be six or seven holes where you’ll say, ‘Okay, I’ll take a good look at the birdie.’ The rest you pitch to the front and bring it to the middle.”
Patrick Reed won at Torrey Pines in January and will look to join a most elite group. Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Denny Shute are the only players to have won a major and regular PGA Tour event on the same course in the same year.
Woods, however, used to feast on Torrey Pines. He was so anticipated that John Wood, a caddy who now works as a walking analyst for NBC, followed Woods in 2008 to watch his first round of a PGA Tour event on South Course. left. Woods scored a 67, prompting Cady. To say, “He won two tournaments with just one round.”
And he was right, although one took more work than the other.
Woods, of course, won’t be around for the next US Open act at Torrey Pines. He is recovering from multiple broken bones in his legs from a February 23 car accident in Los Angeles.
He has to watch it from home, just like he did at the Masters and the PGA Championship. It should be quite a show, although it is a tough act to follow.
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