To say Torrey Pines’ first US Open was memorable would be an understatement. So what will the South Course throw up this time around? Steve Carroll takes a closer look
As second acts go, this is going to require something truly dramatic. Who could forget the first? A fist pumping Tiger Woods and a redoubtable Rocco Mediate, who lasted 91 holes before finally being conquered.
The 2008 US Open was blockbuster and has gone down in golf’s legend. But what now for the sequel?
The stage is the key, and what we have in the South course at Torrey Pines is a set that fits all of the USGA’s criteria for a summer spectacular.
We expect US Opens to be tough. We expect rough that threatens to swallow a competitor and the sight of the world’s best forced into the kind of shots we’re all too used to on a Saturday morning.
But in the South Course at this San Diego complex we might have one of the most fearsome in recent memory. Will we see a massacre, like at Winged Foot, or the nearly unplayable greens at Shinnecock?
The stats suggest it’s going to be difficult. Only the aforementioned Winged Foot played harder on the PGA Tour last season. There were 116 double bogeys and more than 1,100 bogeys at the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open.
The 12th was in the top 10 toughest holes of the year, while the players didn’t take on a longer course – at 7,765 yards – all season.
And that was for a regular tour event. Add in the sadistic overtones of a major championship and most of these guys aren’t going to get out intact.
They played the course for the Farmers Insurance as a par 72. Thirteen years ago, as Woods got round on one leg, the par 5 6th was converted into a brutally long 4. If you want to see approaches with a long iron, a rarity these days, then strap in if the competition committee repeat the trick.
“We’re going back to more old-fashioned U.S. Opens where we put a premium on accuracy off the tee. You’re going to see that at Torrey Pines,” said John Bodenhammer, the USGA’s senior director of championships on site in January.
“You have to drive your ball in the fairways to control your approach shots, and your pitch and chip shots. The greens will be bouncy. We’ll have the greatest players in the world that week, and we’ll be able to identify the best player.”
So expect furrowed brows, agonised expressions and, maybe, the odd bent club. It should be four days of theatrical excitement.
Where the US Open will be won and lost
3rd hole – Par 3, 198 yards
Get out the cameras – the views of the Pacific are simply incredible. But that’s not window dressing. The 3rd packs a significant punch. Sloping dramatically downhill, the two-tier green is perched on the edge of a cliff and, combined with some unpredictable breezes, means it’s an anxious time when the ball is in the air. Avoid the large bunker that adds just another element of danger.
12th hole – Par 4, 501 yards
Often playing into the wind, the 12th is an absolute brute and was the site of a bogey fest during Tiger’s triumph 13 years ago. Even with a good drive, it’ll be tough to reach in two and the green slopes – if the players manage to find the putting surface – can be dramatic. The toughest hole on the course, the stats show it’s one of the hardest on the whole of the PGA Tour.
17th hole – Par 4, 440 yards
Forget about the water on the last, there’s as good a chance the destiny of the US Open will be decided on the penultimate hole – a fiendish par 4 where the fairway comes perilously close to a canyon on the left. Those who avoid oblivion here still have to pass the test of the green. Not only is it raised, and protected by a pair of bunkers, it’s also severely sloping and forms part of a fitting finish to a major championship.