by David Shefter USGA
The USGA on Wednesday gave Torrey Pines 3 Fs. That would be fast, firm and fair.
Jim Hyler, the USGA's vice president and Chairman of the Championship Committee, said the golf course is right where they want it. The greens are running 13.5 on the Stimpmeter. The two cuts of primary rough are perfect, especially with the unique blend of kikuyu, rye and poa annua spliced intermittently throughout, giving the rough an inconsistency and creating a challenge for the players who are offline with their shots.
With the sun firming things up on Wednesday, the course has the playing characteristics that the USGA outlines in its course setup philosophy. Nobody knows what the winning score will be come Sunday, but that doesn't matter as long as its a firm test of golf over 72 holes.
The last three U.S. Opens have been idea, even though Geoff Ogilvy and Angel Cabrera each walked off with the trophy with 5-over 285 totals in 2006 and '07, respectively. Nobody complained about the unfairness of Winged Foot and Oakmont. Both are beasts and that was demonstrated in the scoring.
The length of the course (7,643 yards) suggests it favors the long-hitter, but if the fairways continue to firm up, the medium-length player should have an opportunity as well. At a U.S. Open, shot-making is rewarded over brute strength. So that should leave room for guys like Justin Leonard, Mike Weir and a Jim Furyk to contend.
Keep an eye out for great ball-strikers like Boo Weekley and Sergio Garcia. Both tend to struggle on the greens, but both have played solid golf entering the championship.
Looking for a sleeper? How about a Pat Perez, who grew up playing and working at Torrey Pines or Jason Gore, who turned in a Cinderella performance in his last Open appearance at Pinehurst in 2005. Anthony Kim is another hot young gun with southern California roots.
No amateur has won the Open since Johnny Goodman in 1933, but I could see one or two of the 11 in the field making the cut. Those with the best chance include Rickie Fowler, Nick Taylor, Michael Thompson and Kyle Stanley.
Well, the time has come. It's time for the balls to be put in the air for real and to start counting up those strokes. A dressed-up Torrey Pines awaits.