Year in and year out, the most difficult test in golf is upon us. Torrey Pines in La Jolla, CA is the host for the 2008 U.S. Open. Make no mistake though, this isn't even close to being the golf course that hosted the Buick Invitational in January. Longer, harder, faster are the keywords. Today we'll highlight the course, tomorrow the combatants.
7,643 yards, yes, Seven Thousand, Six Hundred, Forty Three yards. Longer than a Fellini flick. You would expect this favors the huge hitters. Perhaps, perhaps not. One thing for sure though, the weak hitters have no chance here. Mike Davis, the U.S.G.A.'s senior director of rules and competitions is responsible for the course set up. It's probably his influence that "softened" the set up for U.S. Open courses lately. Graduated rough will be used again with the 1st cut set at 1 3/4 inches. That's not too tough of a penalty for missing a fairway by a bit. It allows the player to make a solid strike on the ball, but diminishes his ability to produce green holding spin. 1st primary cut, or the "Crap, not there", cut is set at 2 1/2 inches. That's enough rough to make for some serious farming or balloon balls. The "real" rough, or the primary cut will be set at 3 1/2 inches. That's the kind of grass that says, "Get it back in play", no more, no less. Don't be surprised either if the 3 1/2 inches is measured today and by Thursday it's "find it with your foot" long.
All a player has to do to take the rough out of the equation is hit fairways. The 24-33 yard wide fairways. Oh, and be long as well. This baby is 7,643 yards long. Landing in the fairway doesn't mean you hit the fairway. Much drier conditions in June means a hard and fast golf course. Run outs in the rough are just as nasty as airing it there. If they survive all that, the greens are no picnic. Undulating and sloped and dry. It's been reported that they're running in the low 13s on the Stimpmeter for the practice sessions. I would expect that sometime, particularly this weekend, that number will start with a 14. Dry and sunny conditions are in order through the rest of the week. One condition that might favor early round players is that it's fog season in San Diego. Morning fog is a regular occurrence and dampens the course until it's burned off by the sun. Hey, any edge you can get in a U.S. Open.
Holes to Watch
Well, all of them of course, but of note......
#6 Converted par 5. Can play 515 yds. Has the green design to accept 3rd shots, ahving been a par 5. You may see 2nd shot lay ups and up and downs for par.
#9 612 yd. par 5. Only the longest guys, under the right conditions, can reach this monster in two.
#12 505 yd. par four. Tough as a $5.00 steak. ha options though. Their approach shots can be run up. Expect many different strategies here.
#16 225 yd. par 3. Tee boxes can be on either side of this hole giving it distinctive looks. The wind is a large factor on this one.
#18 Great finisher at the discretion of the U.S.G.A. they have the ability to move the tee box up and make it a reachable par five for most of the field. Eagle chances on 18 on Sunday in a U.S. Open? That's must see TV.
So, we've learned that the golfer that wins this has to be long off the tee, but accurate. He has to be strong enough to muscle the ball out of the rough when he misses a fairway. He has to generate spin to hold slick, undulating greens. But most of all, like almost every other golf tournament, he has to have hot putter for four days. Sound like anyone you know? If so, then let me know, because right now I'm clueless on this one.
Tomorrow we'll try to separate the wheat from the chaff and see if we can figure out who has the best chance of winning this dang thing.