The strongest memory from the last U.S. Open at Torrey Pines was accompanied by three words that explain what golf was like then and now.
The scene was the 18th hole in the final round of 2008. The consequences were as clear as the late afternoon sky over San Diego in June.
Tiger Woods, who had limped his way around the South Course on torn ligaments and a double stress fracture in his left leg, faced a a 12-foot birdie putt. Make it and he would force a playoff against Rocco Mediate. Miss it and he would lose.
When the putt somehow curled in the right side of the cup and Woods triple-clutched his arms in raw celebration, Dan Hicks of NBC said, “Expect anything different?”
Back then? No.
Woods was the singular force in golf even on one leg, even in the toughest test golf offers.
Now? Expect pretty much anything.
The 121st U.S. Open returns June 17-20 to Torrey Pines, the city-owned course along the Pacific bluffs, and there’s no telling what might happen.
The two best players in the world, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, went into the final week having not so much registered a top 10 in the last three months. Jon Rahm is No. 3 in the world and a past winner at Torrey Pines. His 10 days of 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 to victory last September at Winged Foot was to hit driver as far as he could without regard to whether it found the fairway.
The sentimental favorite is Phil Mickelson, who turns 51 on the eve of the U.S. Open. He accepted a special exemption from having fallen out of the top 100 in the world 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.
Six times a runner-up in the U.S. Open, it’s the only major keeping Mickelson from the career Grand Slam.
“I know that I’m playing well and this could very well be my last really good opportunity to win a U.S. Open,” Mickelson said. “So I’m going to put everything I have into it.”
What should be expected is Torrey Pines being the kind of test that defines an old-fashioned U.S. Open. It’s one of the strongest courses on the PGA Tour in January when the turf is soft and there is less regard for the winning score.
Throw in the USGA, narrow fairways, the dry air of June, and 7,652 yards on a South Course that plays every bit that length at sea level. It should be all the players want.
“I don’t think the USGA has to do a hell of a lot to make it very difficult,” Louis Oosthuizen said “It’s already a tough golf course.”
That much was said about Winged Foot last year, the New York course that in five previous U.S. Opens had yielded only two …read more
Source:: The Denver Post – Sports