Plenty of intrigue at 108th US Open
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2008 US Open | Preview | 11 Jun 2008
The 108th US Open Championship is played this week at the famed South Course at Torrey Pines just north of San Diego in Southern California. The golf complex at Torrey Pines consists of two courses, the North and the South course but it will be the South Course which will play host for the first time in the history of this Championship.
Torrey Pines is a public golf facility at which local San Diego residents get the opportunity to play on the regular PGA Tour, and now US Open stop, for $US42 while visitors to the area pay a still very reasonable US$145 for weekday round. It continues a trend set in recent years by the USGA to take the event to courses playable by the public including Pebble Beach, Pinehurst # 2 and Bethpage Black.
The green fee at the South Course represents tremendous value especially when compared to the US$495 being charged to play Pebble Beach. As is the case with Bethpage Black, the home of the US Open in 2002 and where Tiger Woods last won the event, golf fans line up at all hours of the morning in order to play the course. With the exposure and profile the course will receive this week then they may be forced out of bed even earlier in the future.
The course was originally designed and built in the late 1950’s by William Bell and his son William the elder of whom was also responsible for another Californian gem in the Riviera Country Club just outside Los Angeles. In 2001 the USGA’s ‘course doctor’ Rees Jones set about upgrading the layout to accommodate this event and, a year later, the golf course measured a massive 500 yards longer than was the case previously.
For this week’s event the course will actually measure 7643 yards making it the longest course in the history of the US Open. It will, statistically at least, measure close to 400 yards longer than the previous longest, the Winged Foot Golf Club in New York, when it played host in 2006. I say statistically as it is likely that the course this week will be tweaked on a daily basis to accommodate wind strength considerations and to offer variety.
Two players have dominated events at Torrey Pines in the past ten years. Tiger Woods has won six Buick Invitational events in that time and Phil Mickelson two although Mickelson also won the Buick around in 1993. Tiger Woods was also successful at Torrey Pines in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s although that was when winning four Junior World Golf Championships.
Both Woods and Mickelson are Californian born with Mickelson having been born and raised in the San Diego area. The world number one and two are drawn together in the opening two rounds of the event along with world number three, Adam Scott, and will attract a huge gallery in the opening two rounds.
One of the more intriguing aspects this week is the distinct possibility of a European win in the event for the first time since Tony Jacklin’s historic victory in 1970 at Hazeltine. There are several Europeans in form and now reaching a point in their careers where victory is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Woods returns after a break from tournament golf of just over two months following arthroscopic knee surgery and his subsequent recovery. Woods has shown previously that such a lengthy break is no real hindrance to success as in fact it was at this very venue in early 2003 that he returned from surgery on his knee to win the Buick Invitational after a similar amount of time away from the game. It has been six years since Woods won this event so, while he is the hot favourite to win, this is no lay down misere by any stretch of the imagination.
Phil Mickelson is a little more tournament hardened at present, a necessary factor for the grind that is US Open golf, and as a three time winner at this venue and with some good form of late, he will provide Woods with all he can handle. Mickelson has a very good record at this event without winning but that could change this year.
Geoff Ogilvy has developed into a big event player in the past three years and they don’t come much bigger than this. He won at Doral earlier in the season, finished runner up in Houston and then indicated his readiness for this week with two very good finishes at the Colonial and the Memorial, both on class golf courses.
Adam Scott is perhaps closer to winning a major than ever before but whether that makes him close enough remains to be seen. Far greater consistency and a better putter in 2008 make him a better prospect than has previously been the case but there is still a question mark surrounding his capacity to challenge in major championships. It must happen at some stage but in six starts in this event his best has been 21st so significant further improvement is needed.
Sergio Garcia, like Scott, is looking to turn potential into reality as far as major golf is concerned and his recent win at Sawgrass and another good week last week in Memphis suggest it is not out of the question this week. If the Spaniard can have a similar week on the greens to that he had at the Players then there is no reason why he can’t go close.
Vijay Singh and Torrey Pines have not been the best of friends over the years, Singh having never finished inside the top ten at the Buick Invitational, although to be fair he has played that event on only six occasions. He missed the cut at the recent Players Championship and then withdrew through injury at the BMW PGA in England. He played last week’s event in Memphis and did well and his form earlier in the season was very good. Although it has been nearly 18 months since Singh won in the US, he has finished inside the top ten in seven of his fourteen starts in this event and might overcome his Torrey Pines hoodoo this week.
Jim Furyk has not been his normal sharp self in recent weeks but as the runner up in this event in each of his last two years and a winner in 2003, he could still do well. His top tens at Doral, Hilton Head and Quail Hollow over a month ago give an indication of his form a little earlier in 2008 and he could well challenge again.
Trevor Immelman lost his way a little after his stunning Masters victory but he indicated last week, when runner up in Memphis, that he has his mind back on the job. As a proven and in form major winner, he commands respect.
Padraig Harrington is a player whose game seems ready made for the US Open and five top tens in the event back up that claim. After a brilliant start to the season, Harrington’s form has not been so good in recent weeks although the British Open Champion had a much better week last week in Memphis when finishing inside the top five.
Luke Donald has twice been runner up at the Buick Invitational at this course and arrives at Torrey Pines with two very good finishes in his last two starts at Wentworth and at the Memorial.
Justin Rose adds further strength to the European challenge and along with Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald is one of the best players in the world without a major to his name. He has performed well in major championships in recent years, including being four times inside the top 12 in 2007. His runner-up finish at the Memorial highlights the current state of his game and he has a chance.
Players who could be considered at longer odds include Stephen Ames, who plays well in the wind and is in good form, the very much inform Robert Karlssson, who after an impressive top ten at Augusta has not finished outside the top three in four subsequent events, Andres Romero, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Boo Weekley.
Australians Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley, Rod Pampling, Craig Parry, Mathew Goggin and Jarrod Lyle join the battle as does 2005 Champion, New Zealander Michael Campbell.