SAN DIEGO – And now it all comes down to the greens.
firm, bumpy and beguiling, the putting surfaces at Torrey Pines Golf
Course will likely have the final say in determining who wins the 108th
U.S. Open. When the 80 players who made the cut on Torrey South renew
their pitched battle with the longest Open course in history, they’ll
have to make peace with the unpredictable poa annua putting surfaces.
greens are going to be the biggest factor by far,” predicted Patrick
Sheehan, who is among 33 players within six shots of leader Stuart
Appleby heading into the third round Saturday. “They are not going to
get softer and they won’t be smoother. They’re going to dictate how it
Added 2003 U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk: “They’ve protected
us from this golf course a lot. They really can’t do too much more
about the rest of the setup, but they can certainly control the score
through the greens, if they want to. How firm they are, where they put
the pins, how fast they are … yeah, I would say the greens are the
When Rees Jones renovated the South Course in 2001, much of
the focus was on the lengthening of the layout to 7,643 yards. But
Jones was especially proud of his new green complexes, which included
more tiers and ridges, as well as pockets for additional hole locations.
But equally making an impact has been the change in the surfaces from
bent to poa annua, which get bumpier as the hours progress.
players the first two days became frustrated watching their putts
meander toward their intended target. Others shrugged. Steve Stricker
could only laugh watching an eagle putt on the home hole zigzag down a
slope and past the hole.
“Jim (Furyk) asked me if the ball ever actually touched the ground it bounced so much,” Stricker said.
players complained about the quality of the greens, but that’s simply
part of the U.S. Open test. “It’s tricky, but you have to pick your
spots and manage your game,” Robert Allenby said.
Committee chairman Jim Hyler said the greens would undoubtedly be a
factor, but not the sole indicator for who will be successful over the
last 36 holes. “It’s still the whole golf course, keeping it in the
fairway, hitting greens, making a few putts. This setup allows players
to show off all their skills.”
Nevertheless, putting tends to get
magnified under tough conditions. “It’s not easy to make putts, where
they put the pins, the speed,” Sergio Garcia said. “They have made the
golf course very fair, so the difference is getting the ball in the
“You can change the score so much where you put the tees
and the pins,” added 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy. “If you have
all the par‑5s back, you have a third on the back tee, and you tuck the
pins, under par is a phenomenal score. But if you put some tees like
yesterday and have some pins in the balls, and all of a sudden there
seemed to be quite a few birdies out there yesterday. So the setup man
has complete say over what we shoot, I think.”
Not entirely. John
Rollins, who shot a morning 3-under 68 Friday, pointed out that it was
not easy to fire at any flagsticks, reducing most players to trying to
hole 18-20 footers. “It’s kind of hard to score that way on greens like
this,” he said.
Then along came Tiger Woods in the afternoon with a
68 achieved largely through draining a series of mid-length putts.
Miguel Angel Jimenez fired a 66, the best round of the tournament, a few
Hyler said the hole locations for all days,
including a potential Monday playoff, were established before the
tournament. So also were the desired firmness and speed. He said
Saturday’s conditions shouldn’t deviate dramatically from that of the
first two rounds.
“Good scores are still going to be possible if someone plays well,” he said.
He mentioned players who put their tee shots in the fairways and avoiding the long Kikuyugrass rough.
But then they still have to deal with the greens.
locations would be one of the biggest factors,” Appleby said, looking
ahead. “I don't think they're going to do anything else to the course
but pin positions, making them a little bit more difficult to find is
going to take away maybe one or two birdies out of the guys playing
well. You imagine what it's taking out of the guys who maybe back
The players who make a move Saturday might not have the
fewest putts, but they will execute well on what would be considered
important putts, be they par saves, birdies, lags or even the odd tricky
tap-in where they could easily fall asleep – as Adam Scott did in
missing an 8-incher Friday.
Equally important will be how players
handle possible disappointment on the putting surfaces. “That’s part of
the patience,” Allenby said.
It’s a big part of any U.S. Open.