And nobody will be watching more closely than Mike Davis, the USGAs chief course set-up guy. Thats because the Monday after the Buick Invitational ends is the first day Davis gets his hands, full time, on Torrey Pines South, the site of Junes U.S. Open.
Its pretty much going to be the same course next week as it will be for the U.S. Open as far as what people see. Davis told GOLF CHANNEL this week.
What people wont readily see on television, but the players will learn, is the firmness Davis means to insure for June. The greens typically run from 9 to 10 (on the Stimpmeter), Davis said. My guess is well be closer to 13. Thats a speed those greens have never been at before.
For the Buick Invitational, Torrey Pines South will play 7,568 yards to a par of 72. That yardage will be roughly the same for the U.S. Open but the USGA has converted the par-5 sixth to a long par 4 which will make for an 18-hole par of 71.
That hole had no sexiness as a par 5, Davis said of No. 6.
The 18th hole, a relatively short par 5, will remain a par 5 despite a lively debate among USGA officials. Course architect Rees Jones, who did the re-design at Torrey Pines, wanted No. 18 converted to a par 4. Davis wanted a par 5 so he could manipulate the tee box lengths on a daily basis to account for weather conditions and challenge the medium-to-long hitters to go for the green in two all four days.
TORREY RIGHT NOW:
Meanwhile, longtime Buick Invitational tournament director Tom Wilson says Torrey Pines South is in the best condition hes ever seen it.
He said (and Davis corroborated) the lengths of the roughs and the widths of the fairways will be similar to U.S. Open conditions. There was a lot of rain in the San Diego area last week so the course is expected to be relatively soft. And, Wilson added, the bunker conditions and the roughs around the greens will be much more benign next week than they will be in June.
During the wild fires that ravaged Southern California last fall, Wilson had to evacuate his Rancho Bernardo home for four days. In the interim he stayed at a hotel adjacent to Torrey Pines. The golf course suffered no damage, in part, because of its proximity to the Pacific Ocean.
Many of Wilsons Rancho Bernardo neighbors werent so lucky. It was pretty devastating, he said. And we were pretty blessed. Approximately 150 homes in Wilsons neighborhood burned to the ground. His house escaped relatively unscathed.
KINDLER, GENTLER U.S. OPEN?:
One of the things Davis did during the holidays was break out the tapes and watch every minute of all four days of the television broadcasts of last years U.S. Open at Oakmont.
One thing I just dont think we got right was the first cut of the primary rough, he said. It was just too penal.
That will change at Torrey Pines. The winning score at each of the last two U.S. Opens was 5 over par. Davis told me he has no problem if 10 under is the winning score in June.
The 2008 PGA TOUR ballot for the World Golf Hall of Fame landed on my doorstep Wednesday. This years list comprises 17 names compared to 20 last year.
Curtis Strange and Hubert Green moved off the list and into the Hall. John Daly dropped off the list because he failed to appear on at least 5 percent of the ballots for two straight years.
The most likely candidate to graduate into the Hall off of this years list is Lanny Wadkins. Wadkins name showed up on 50 percent of the ballots last year. The magic number for getting in is 65 percent. Wadkins figures to benefit this year from not having to compete with voters who preferred Strange, his contemporary, last year.
Wadkins won 21 times on the PGA TOUR, including the 1977 PGA Championship and the 1979 PLAYERS.
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