Ladies and gentlemen, we’re back at Torrey Pines for the U.S. Open! Well, we’ve been back every year for quite a while, but this week Torrey will host its first U.S. Open since Tiger’s victory in 2008. Let’s dig in.
Putting up with the Joneses
Typically we like to start major championship previews with a bit about the golf course. But let’s call a spade a spade: the South Course at Torrey Pines isn’t very interesting. It’s narrow and brawny, an execution test more than a strategic one. The setting is beautiful, but the course leaves a lot to be desired. Our own Andy Johnson penned an article explaining some of the simple changes that could make Torrey more interesting, but for the time being, we’ll make do with the current iteration.
Still, as we’ve learned from PGA Championships at Bellerive and Valhalla, a memorable major can happen anywhere. Any event with Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, etc., is bound to deliver something.
Two big questions
Who really has a chance? – We covered this question in our dedicated U.S. Open newsletter last week, but it’s worth revisiting. Last year at Winged Foot, Bryson DeChambeau proved that narrow fairways and thick rough could be straightforwardly overpowered. Knowing that we are going to see a similar setup this week, you have to wonder whether anyone with less-than-elite distance off the tee has a real chance—and whether that’s going to be any fun to watch.
What’s the difference? – As Pebble Beach has shown over and over, regular PGA Tour stops can become different beasts at a major championship. Yes, Torrey Pines is the annual host of the Farmers Insurance Open, but that event is split between the North and South courses during the first two rounds, and Torrey plays softer in January and February than it will in June. Just how different the South Course will be remains to be seen, but player reports indicate that the short grass is firmer and the rough around the greens is thicker.
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Speak for yourself
The press conferences ahead of this year’s U.S. Open have been unusually insightful. Here are a few interesting sound bites from the week thus far…
Bryson DeChambeau on his strategy at Torrey Pines: “For the most part, I’m going to be trying to bomb it as much as possible and try to gouge it out when I don’t hit it in the fairway.”
Jon Rahm was level headed and well spoken when discussing his forced withdrawal from the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago. He endorsed the PGA Tour’s Covid-19 policy and said he knew he would be out if he tested positive once he entered the testing protocol. Regarding the idea of playing alone on Sunday at the Memorial, Rahm said, “I shouldn’t have—that’s nonsense. The rules are there, and it’s clear.” He also noted that he was vaccinated when he tested positive but not past the 14-day waiting period. Fortunately, all of that’s now behind him, and the No. 3 player in the world is free to chase his first major championship at a course where he’s won before.
Jordan Spieth on narrowness at Winged Foot vs. narrowness at Torrey Pines: “I think at Winged Foot, the fairways were so firm that fairway percentages were going to be so low that essentially those who flew the ball the furthest—and obviously, the winner was one of those…. I think [Torrey] is different. The grass type and the fairways, even if it firms up a bit, is still going to hold shots better. And there’s more bunkers around the landing areas than rough. So I think that it’s a different situation on that front.”
Justin Thomas on playing Torrey Pines in the Farmers Insurance Open vs. the U.S. Open: “It’s so different. It’s very similar to Pebble a couple years ago in that you can’t come play it in February and then compare it to how it is in the summer. It’s a totally different golf course.”
Phil Mickelson on design changes at Torrey Pines over the years: “I like the way some of the holes have gotten rid of some of the rough to open up the canyon and bring that in play and allow it to be a little bit more friendly for the average guy, but yet difficult for the good player because the canyon’s in play. No. 17 is a good example. There used to be a lot of rough on the left side, but now the canyon is the hazard. I think that’s cool.” Bingo, Phil.
Defending champion Brooke Henderson headlines the field at the Meijer LPGA Classic in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Tee Times
The Korn Ferry Tour says howdy to Kansas for the Wichita Open this week. Marty Dou is surely going to win. Tee Times
Hayden Springer will make his U.S. Open debut at Torrey Pines this week. It’s been an emotional year for Springer, his wife Emma, and their baby daughter Sage, who was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 before being born. Originally given 72 hours to live, Sage is now eight months old. Watch the Springer’s full story via Golf Channel.
Augusta National is making its usual post-Masters updates, this time to Nos. 11, 13, and 15. The biggest changes appear to be tree removal down the right side of No. 11 and a new back tee on No. 15. Geoff Shackelford broke down the most recent images from above the Masters venue.
U.S. Women’s Open winner Yuka Saso was out at Torrey Pines on Tuesday, following her swing twin Rory McIlroy. The most recent women’s major champion also had a chance to meet the most recent men’s major champion, Phil Mickelson.
Turns out that if you fight your playing partner, you could very well end up in handcuffs (via Monday Q Info).
The Latest from The Fried Egg
Using Nature’s Hazards – Andy Johnson explains a simple design change that would instantly improve the South Course at Torrey Pines.
Paulie’s Picks: U.S. Open – Major championships are no time to mess around with your DraftKings and one-and-done picks. Lean on Paulie for all fantasy advice this week!
The Fried Egg Podcast: Five Things About the U.S. Open with Geoff Ogilvy
You probably know that Geoff Ogilvy won the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. What you may have forgotten is that he also contended for the 2008 edition at Torrey Pines. In fact, at one point on Sunday, he was tied with eventual winner Tiger Woods. Now, 13 years later, the U.S. Open returns to the South Course at Torrey Pines, and Geoff joins Andy to preview the tournament. They run through five things that Andy will be watching for, and they also discuss Phil Mickelson’s surprising win at Kiawah Island, Geoff’s equally surprising affection for Torrey Pines South, and—of course—the mysteries of hang-gliding. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
Shotgun Start: Torrey foibles, Bomb-and-Gouge, Brooks v. Bryson, and Hang-glider impacts
This Wednesday episode serves as your official U.S. Open preview. Andy and Brendan begin with some player reactions to the course setup so far, getting in the weeds on bomb-and-gouge proclamations and rough trepidation. There’s a debate about too much luck being involved, and a take that the U.S. Open has become the most predictable of the majors in terms of what type of winner it delivers. They highlight the divergent thoughts of Bryson and Jordan Spieth on whether this will be similar to Winged Foot. Then they get to the rumor that Bryson declined a pairing with Brooksy, and react to some of the pearl-clutching on Tuesday over this feud existing at all. One-and-done picks are made. Favorite groupings are bandied about—from the Triple H to the European runts—as well as worst groupings. Somehow, there is anti-Meronk sentiment. They close with some chatter on whether the hang-gliders, perhaps a rogue one with a bet slip, could impact the championship. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.