Next Major Up: The U.S.
April 14, 2008
By Dave Shedloski
The year's first major championship is in the books and
Trevor Immelman, the 1998 U.S. Amateur Public Links winner,
is the Masters champion. For those who curry the
favor of history and harbor ambitions of making their mark
in golf, it's not too early to start thinking about the
108th U.S. Open Championship.
|An aerial view of the South
Course's 14th hole, which will play as a 435-yard
par 4 during the U.S. Open. (John Mummert/USGA)|
This is predominantly true for the players who build
their schedules and their games around the four major
championships with the intent of peaking at the right
times. This was no less true for Bob Jones as for Sam
Snead, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
Many of today's top players strive to harmonize with
the major championship rhythm. Now that the 72
Masters Tournament is complete, it's not unusual for
some players to at least start glancing ahead to mid-June
and the South Course at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San
Torrey Pines South, designed by William Bell Sr. in 1957
but renovated by Rees Jones in 2001, will measure -
depending on the round - 7,541 to 7,643 yards (a record for
the Open) and be converted to par 71 when it becomes the
second publicly-owned facility to host the U.S. Open behind
Bethpage State Park's Black Course (2002).
"I look forward to the U.S. Open at the start of every
year," said 2003 champion Jim Furyk, who won his title
at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club and has been
runner-up in the last two U.S. Opens at Winged Foot and
Oakmont. "Obviously, I've done OK in the
tournament, and I wish I could have found another shot here
or there the last couple of years.
"I haven't played Torrey Pines very much because
it just doesn't set up well for my game, but I'll
have to wait and see how it looks after the USGA gets in
there. I know it's going to be hard, and it's going
to be long, but it's still the U.S. Open, so you sort
of know what to expect. A lot of golf between now and then,
One player who is ready to start preparing for Torrey Pines
immediately is Phil Mickelson - and he has toured Torrey
Pines plenty in his lifetime. The San Diego native used to
play high school matches there, same holds true for the
Junior World, and he's won three of his 33 PGA Tour
titles at the Buick Invitational, which is annually
He admitted that the Open, "has been in the back of my
mind," since long before the Masters, where he tied
for fifth place. Mickelson has won three majors and is a
four-time U.S. Open runner-up, the last coming in 2006 at
Winged Foot when he double-bogeyed the 72nd hole. What he
cherishes most is a U.S. Open title.
"I've been playing practice rounds there
sporadically for some time now," said Mickelson.
"Growing up there, that tournament means a lot to me,
living in San Diego playing high school matches there at
Torrey. I've been out there a bunch and I've been
thinking about it a lot."
David Toms won the 1984 Junior World at Torrey Pines, and
he was forthright in sharing his mindset after tying for
42nd at the Masters despite battling a bad back that has
limited his schedule thus far.
"I have to say I'm not a fan of Torrey Pines, and
that's after doing well there when I was younger,"
said the 2001 PGA champion. "That said, we play it [on
the PGA Tour] at a time of year that isn't conducive to
my game. I might like it a lot more in the summer, and I
might like how it is set up. But that's a long time
off. I'm just hoping I will be healthy for it, because
I know it will be tough."
Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion at Winged Foot
Golf Club, said the familiarity of the venue might be a
factor in how soon players begin to look ahead to the Open,
though he no sooner had finished at Augusta National than
he was ready to gear up for the year's second major.
"Usually what we face is a golf course that almost no
one has played, or at least they haven't played it
much, so no one has an advantage," said the
logical-thinking Aussie, who tied for 39
at the Masters. "This year we go to a place that
everyone knows pretty well, so still no one has an
advantage. It all equals out.
"But I'm thinking of it right now. Some good
tournaments ahead . Wachovia, Memorial, some courses that
are sort of tough golf courses that play a bit like an
Open. The U.S. Open is just a much tougher version."
Fellow Aussie Adam Scott went one step further than merely
thinking of the U.S. Open immediately. Walking away from
the 18th green at Augusta National toward the famed
antebellum clubhouse, the world's No. 5-ranked player
wore a determined expression on his face.
"It's 10 weeks away . but I think I'm playing
well. I'm ready to play it this week," he said.
"I wish it were this week."
Dave Shedloski is a freelance writer whose work has
appeared previously on www.usga.org.