No Tiger in return to Torrey, no telling what may occur

The strongest reminiscence from the final U.S. Open at Torrey Pines was accompanied by three phrases that designate what golf was like then and now.

The scene was the 18th gap within the ultimate spherical of 2008. The results had been as clear because the late afternoon sky over San Diego in June.

Tiger Woods, who had limped his approach across the South Course on torn ligaments and a double stress fracture in his left leg, confronted a a 12-foot birdie putt. Make it and he would drive a playoff in opposition to Rocco Mediate. Miss it and he would lose.

When the putt by some means curled in the proper facet of the cup and Woods triple-clutched his arms in uncooked celebration, Dan Hicks of NBC mentioned, “Anticipate something completely different?”

Again then? No.

Woods was the singular drive in golf even on one leg, even within the hardest take a look at golf affords.

Now? Anticipate just about something.

The 121st U.S. Open returns June 17-20 to Torrey Pines, the city-owned course alongside the Pacific bluffs, and there isn’t any telling what may occur.

The 2 greatest gamers on the planet, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, went into the ultimate week having not a lot registered a high 10 within the final three months. Jon Rahm is No. 3 on the planet and a previous winner at Torrey Pines. His 10 days of self-isolation from a constructive COVID-19 take a look at ends two days earlier than the opening spherical.

The defending champion is Bryson DeChambeau, probably the most out-of-the-box golfer in a long time whose highway map to victory final September at Winged Foot was to hit driver so far as he may with out regard as to whether it discovered the golf green.

The sentimental favourite is Phil Mickelson, who turns 51 on the eve of the U.S. Open. He accepted a particular exemption from having fallen out of the highest 100 on the planet for the primary time in almost 30 years. After which he received the PGA Championship every week later to develop into the oldest main champion in historical past.

Six instances a runner-up within the U.S. Open, it is the one main retaining Mickelson from the profession Grand Slam.

“I do know that I’m enjoying nicely and this might very nicely be my final actually good alternative to win a U.S. Open,” Mickelson mentioned. “So I’m going to place the whole lot I’ve into it.”

What needs to be anticipated is Torrey Pines being the sort of take a look at that defines an old style U.S. Open. It is one of many strongest programs on the PGA Tour in January when the turf is delicate and there may be much less regard for the successful rating.

Throw within the USGA, slim fairways, the dry air of June, and seven,652 yards on a South Course that performs each bit that size at sea degree. It needs to be all of the gamers need.

“I don’t assume the USGA has to do a hell of lots to make it very troublesome,” Louis Oosthuizen mentioned “It’s already a tricky golf course.”

That a lot was mentioned about Winged Foot final yr, the New York course that in 5 earlier U.S. Opens had yielded solely two 72-hole scores below par amongst 750 gamers who had tried. After which DeChambeau received by six pictures at 6-under 274, the bottom rating ever at Winged Foot.

Whether or not that is a template for any U.S. Open stays to be seen.

“If it performs the identical approach, the place you possibly can bomb it into sure locations and play to a greater angle, I will do it,” DeChambeau mentioned. “In the event that they make it the identical approach, I will proceed to play the identical approach.”

Solely two gamers within the final 50 years have received the U.S. Open in consecutive years — Curtis Unusual (1988-89) and Brooks Koepka (2017-18). DeChambeau would love nothing greater than to affix them, and that is likely to be the ultimate phrase in his social media riff with Koepka.

That has been as entertaining as something in golf because the PGA Championship. Somebody leaked an unaired Golf Channel interview with Koepka during which he rolls his eyes when he notices DeChambeau strolling behind him, pauses the interview after which makes use of salty language to precise his disdain for DeChambeau.

It is uncommon for gamers to be so public with a dispute. DeChambeau mentioned it was “flattering” that Koepka gave the impression to be so obsessive about him, whereas Koepka provided no apologies and even urged their spat was creating curiosity in golf.

“The truth that golf’s on just about each information outlet for about two weeks fairly constantly, I believe that’s a very good factor,” Koepka mentioned. “It is rising the sport.”

It has the potential to be a sideshow on the U.S. Open, a significant that may create sufficient drama by itself because it tries to determine the most effective participant with a course that may be excessive.

It is not a direct comparability as a result of the PGA Tour occasion at Torrey Pines consists of one spherical on the North Course. Even so, Woods was 14 pictures greater within the U.S. Open than he was when he received by eight pictures on the PGA Tour occasion in 2008.

“The most important distinction is how agency the greens are,” Jordan Spieth mentioned. “I’ve seen the forecast of cooler nights, 75 levels and no rain, to allow them to do no matter they need (with the setup). I do not know if the fairways shall be narrower, however they’re going to play extra slim. I think about there shall be six or seven holes the place you say, ‘All proper, I’ll have a very good take a look at birdies.’ The remaining you pitch on the entrance and get it to the center.”

Patrick Reed received at Torrey Pines in January and shall be trying to affix a most elite group. Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Denny Shute are the one gamers to win a significant and an everyday PGA Tour occasion on the identical course in the identical yr.

Woods, although, used to feast on Torrey Pines. He was so predictable that John Wooden, a caddie in 2008 who now works as a strolling analyst for NBC, stayed behind to observe Woods end his first spherical of the PGA Tour occasion on the South Course in 2008. Woods shot 67, prompting the caddie to say, “He simply received two tournaments with one spherical.”

And he was proper, although one took extra work than the opposite.

Woods, after all, will not be round for the subsequent U.S. Open act at Torrey Pines. He’s recovering from a number of damaged bones in his legs from a Feb. 23 automobile crash in Los Angeles.

He’ll have to observe this one from residence, identical to he did the Masters and the PGA Championship. It needs to be fairly a present, although it has a tricky act to comply with.

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Extra AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports activities

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