The Open-Minded US Open

By Brian HewittJune 9, 2008, 4:00 pm
2008 U.S. OpenLA JOLLA, Calif. -- In case you hadnt noticed, this is not your grandfathers U.S. Open anymore.
 
The 108th edition of our national championship begins Thursday at a stunning and municipal golf course called Torrey Pines South in San Diego.
 
The USGA wont get bent out of shape if 10 under wins. The USGA has decided to set par for 18 holes at 71 instead of the usual and grueling par 70.
 
There will be a short par-3 and, probably, a drivable par-4. And the finger and footprints of a forward thinking course set-up guy named Mike Davis and a state-of-the-art superintendent named Mark Woodward will be all over the place.
 
Davis title is Senior Director of Rules and Competitions with the USGA. Woodwards is Manager of Golf Course Operations. But neither is much for standing on ceremony or sitting still for formalities.
 
To be sure, there are still monied, blue-blazered and even hidebound members of the USGAs executive committee. But the U.S. Open has transitioned quite nicely into the 21st century.
 
Overlay Davis and Woodwards expertise with the renovation work of Open Doctor Rees Jones; throw in a crisp weather forecast calling for highs in the low to mid-70s; and add the intrigue of a special Thursday-Friday grouping that includes Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and you have a monster golf buzz.
 
You also have elements that the true golf aficionado will appreciate. If you like to play golf and like to know why a golf course looks and plays the way it does, keep reading. What follows are five reasons why preparing a U.S. Open these days has evolved into a highly-sophisticated science practiced by people who appreciate golf courses as works of art.
 
Even your grandfather might be impressed.
 
THE GREENS:
Woodward supervised the conversion of the greens from a stand of bentgrass to a pure strain of poa annua. That, says Woodward, allows us to get the green speeds to the firmness that the USGA needs for this event.
 
Those speeds, says Davis, will be close to 13 on the Stimpmeter. That speed, Davis adds, is subject to change. What he means by that is that playability will be paramount. Too firm is no good. And Davis, in his third year as No. 1 set-up guy, will not be afraid to err on the side of caution.
 
THE FAIRWAYS AND ROUGHS:
The fairways will be 100 percent kikuyu grass which when cut to fairway length props the golf ball up quite nicely and rewards the accurate player off the tee. The process of bringing the fairways to pure kikuyu involved widespread use of an herbicide called Revolver which, when applied, kills every other kind of grass except kikuyu.
 
The roughs had to be overseeded with ryegrass to tame the tendency of kikuyu in June in San Diego to get too thick. Dont take this the wrong way, there will be U.S. Open rough at Torrey Pines. But there will be several different cuts depending on how far the player is off the fairway.
 
THE THIRD HOLE:
On at least two days, this downhill hole will play from a tee box, set on a bluff, at 142 yards. Davis says the prevailing wind will be into the players faces. Long and left are the ocean and a canyon, respectively. Yes, Davis, says, this hole will remind people of the short 7th hole at Pebble Beach. But several players have already commented that it will be difficult to stop a golf ball from the 195-yard teeing ground if the green is U.S. Open firm. If they put the pin front left, youll have 10 groups waiting on that tee box, says Pat Perez, who worked at Torrey Pines as a teenager and estimates hes played the course at least 250 times. This is one hole Davis will watch closely during the practice rounds. Similar to the first green at Winged Foot at the 2006 U.S. Open, the third at Torrey is a hole Davis will not hesitate to protect from unplayability with water and manageable hole locations. But dont be surprised if the third winds up being the most talked about hole on the golf course before the week ends.
 
THE 18TH HOLE:
Many assumed this reachable par-5 would be converted into a bearish par-4 when Torrey Pines received the 2008 U.S. Open. But Davis wanted it to play as a risk/reward par-5 and he was able to convince USGA executive committee member Jim Hyler that this was the way to go. You can count on the 18th being reachable in two shots for much of the field on Sunday. And you should not be surprised if somebody makes a birdie or even an eagle on the 72nd hole to win the championship. Dont count on your grandfather remembering that ever happening at a U.S. Open in his day. We want players to get out there and have a choice, says Davis. To sit back there saying, Am I going to fly the pond? Can I keep it on the green? .Those things are very appealing to us.
 
THE GOAL:
Transparency was never a watchword for the USGA in its history of preparing championship tracks. But transparency is imperative in American business these days. And Davis, with help from Hyler, has gently but persuasively brought the U.S. Open out into the open.
 
I can promise you this golf course could be set up significantly harder than what its going to be set up, Davis says. We got a fair number of calls right after the Buick (Invitational, played at Torrey Pines South last winter) when Tiger got 19 under, or whatever it was, saying are we nervous about Torrey Pines being too easy for the U.S. Open. I know Jim (Hyler) and I feel anything but that. Our fear, knowing what the kikuyu was going to be like, knowing what the firmness was going to be like, is that Torrey Pines, given the length of the golf course (it can be stretched to more than 7,600 yards), is one place that actually could become too tough. So keep that in mind.
 
Contrary to what a lot of people think, there is no target winning score, says Hyler, who also serves as the chairman of the USGA Championship Committee. We are not trying to protect par or produce over par final scores. We want the course to be set up rigorous, stern but fair. Then whatever the winning score turns out to be is what it turns out to be.
 
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    Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

    Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

    “While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

    It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

    “What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

    The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

    “I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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    Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

    Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:







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    Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

    By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

    The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

    Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

    Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

    1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

    2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

    3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

    4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

    5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

    6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

    7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

    8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

    9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

    10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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    Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

    By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

    It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

    Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

    "The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

    Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

    That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

    "You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

    "But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."