Torrey Pines Weighing Heavily on Players Minds


2008 U.S. OpenLAFAYETTE HILL, Pa. -- Jim Furyk gathered three of his golf buddies for an informal exhibition Monday, yet the foursomes thoughts were far from The Ace Club in suburban Philadelphia.
Furyk hosted of the 10th Exelon Invitational, and joined fellow PGA Tour players Steve Stricker, Aaron Baddeley and K.J. Choi in putting on an entertaining show for the thousands who trekked around the breezy, sun-splashed Gary Player-designed course.
The USA vs. The World best-ball twosome format (Furyk and Stricker vs. Baddeley and Choi) featured plenty of shot-making and even some laughs. But each player got serious when the topic of conversation switched to the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
When the pros converge on the San Diego area next week, Torrey Pines will feature the usual narrow fairways and high rough, and could play nearly 7,600 yards. But that number didnt faze the players.
Length doesnt concern anyone on our tour, said Furyk, the only major winner in Mondays group and runner-up at the Open in the last two years. You cant make golf courses long enough anymore. Seventy-six hundred yards is not that long, especially if the course is playing fast and hard.
But the golf course concerns me because it is hard. The greens are very severe, as severe as weve seen for a long time at a U.S. Open. A lot of the fairways are pitched You have to carve the ball to keep the ball in the fairway.
Baddeley, Stricker and Choi all have their major aspirations.
Last year, the 27-year-old Baddeley led the U.S. Open after three rounds, but fell out of contention after a triple-bogey at No. 1 in the final round.
Baddeley says the experience made him stronger. And should he win a title, he promises to cherish it.
The names that are on that trophy, and to be a part of that history, it would be something that would be so special, the Australian said.
Stricker enjoyed a resurgence in his game recently and is a two-time PGA Tour comeback player of the year. He has struggled this season, however, missing the cut six times after missing six total cuts the two previous seasons. Hes hoping for one more chance to contend for a major.
It would be the ultimate, Stricker said. My career is kind of winding down; Im 41. That would be the ultimate. It would be a dream come true.
Furyk won his only major in 2003, the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields. He admits that Torrey Pines isnt high on his list of places to play.
Its no secret Ive only played Torrey Pines three times in 15 years, Furyk said. And unless I win the Open, theres a good chance Im not going back next year.
I dont dislike it. I dont think its a bad course. Its a good golf course and its hard.
Furyk said Baddeley and the Choi as players doing well enough this season to be in the hunt.
I have to go with the hot player, Furyk said. If it had been last fall, Id have said it would have been Strick. But he has kind of cooled off this spring.
And Choi has been doing well. The 13-time worldwide winner from South Korean claimed the Sony Open in January and has six top-25 finishes in 12 events this year. He was followed around The Ace Club by a large contingent of Korean fans.
Furyks event is the only professional golf that the Philadelphia area gets on a yearly basis. Born in the Philly suburb of West Chester and raised in nearby Lancaster, Furyk is well-versed in the areas place in golf lore.
There is a lot of rich golf history here, Furyk said. We have a lot of wonderful golf courses with (Bobby) Jones winning the Slam at Merion (in 1930) and finishing that off. Its a big part of the city and its a shame we dont have an event here.
The international pairing defeated Furyk and Stricker 3 and 1 after Choi spun a wedge to 6 inches at No. 17. The event raised more than $300,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Eastern Pennsylvania and nudged the decade-old events total earnings for charity past $1.2 million.
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