U.S. Open to return to Torrey amid high expectations

By Jason SobelMarch 18, 2014, 7:16 pm

Let’s start this column off with something we can all agree upon: The 2008 U.S. Open was one for the ages.

Everyone nodding their heads in unison? Good, you should be. As if anyone needs reminding, that was the year Tiger Woods – all-time great, broken leg, clutch putter – defeated Rocco Mediate – man of the people, balky back, ultimate grinder – in one of golf’s most entertaining thrill rides of this or any other generation.

By any fan’s estimation, the first U.S. Open at Torrey Pines had to be considered an unqualified success, even if based solely on the eventual outcome. Same goes for any journalist whose main rooting interest lies with the story, because that week was chock full of luscious storylines.

What about the USGA, though?

In light of Tuesday’s announcement that the U.S. Open will be returning to Torrey Pines for the 2021 edition of the event, that was my question. I wanted to know whether the final result had as much – or even more – of an effect on bringing the tourney back to Torrey than such usual variables as infrastructure and course conditions.

So I asked the man in charge, USGA executive director Mike Davis.

“When you look at the drama that was created back then and you look at how the course tested all parts of the game, yet it didn't necessarily favor one type of game, [those are] absolutely things we look at,” Davis said during a teleconference.

It’s nice to know we’re all on the same page.

Oftentimes in these situations, there’s a tendency to overcomplicate matters from the powers-that-be. You and I might witness the 2008 U.S. Open and proclaim, “Great venue, great event, let’s do it again someday.” But with so many other factors at play when making such a decision, the actual end result can be pushed further down the priority list than it should.

Not this time, though – and Davis deserves to receive kudos for keeping it in the forefront of his thought process.

“When we look back on 2008,” Davis explained, “I think one of the things we all talked about is, ‘How can we possibly top that?’ From my perspective, that was one of the great U.S. Opens ever. Whether it rivals, say, 1913 or 1960 or some of the other great U.S. Opens we've had, history will eventually, I guess, tell that story. But it was a great Open.”

Not that there weren’t plenty of other factors, of course.

The aforementioned infrastructure is already in place based on the fact that Torrey Pines houses two world-class 18-hole golf courses. For one week in June seven years from now, that will be transformed into one world-class golf course and one world-class host of corporate tents, luxury boxes and merchandise booths, although the line of demarcation isn’t necessary drawn between their borders already.

Davis admitted that while the plan is to hold the entire tournament on the South Course, there’s certainly a chance it could also bleed into part of the soon-to-be renovated North Course.

“When we selected this site, we really did it with the idea that we would be focused on the South Course,” he explained. “But having said that, I don't think we would necessarily right now tell you with 100 percent certainty we won't do a composite.”

Course conditions are a factor, too. On a track where Woods and Mediate reached the playoff after playing the first 72 holes at 1 under on what was contested as a par-71, Davis revealed that the USGA might actually need to make the course more playable for the impending U.S. Open.

“One of the things that I found walking the golf course is it's actually become a narrower golf course since the U.S. Open,” he said. “I think one of the things we would do is widen out the fairways a little bit, and there's several cases where some of the roughs are covering up the fairway bunkers. So I think it's minor little tweaks like that. But I really don't foresee any big things being done.”

Those things should certainly be major considerations for any major venue, though perhaps not as much as the competitive environment itself.

The first time – and last time – the U.S. Open was held at Torrey Pines, we were treated to a tournament for the ages. That result shouldn’t have left it a no-brainer to return in the not-too-distant future, but it should have helped the process move along more swiftly.

And that’s exactly what happened when the USGA went in search of filling its next open date. Let’s chalk this one up as a victory not only for the organization, the competitors and the fans, but for common sense, too.

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Davies headlines field at Senior LPGA at French Lick

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 14, 2018, 10:40 pm

Laura Davies will be looking to win her second senior major championship this year when she tees it up in Monday’s start of the Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick Resort in Indiana.

Davies, who won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open in July, will join a field that includes fellow World Golf Hall of Famer Jan Stephenson, who was announced last week with Peggy Kirk Bell as the Hall’s newest members. Hall of Famers Juli Inkster and Hollis Stacy are also in the 54-hole event.

Trish Johnson is back to defend her title after winning the inaugural Senior LPGA Championship a year ago. Brandi Burton, Jane Geddes, Helen Alfredsson and Liselotte Neumann are also in the field of 81 players who will compete for a $600,000 purse, with $90,000 going to the winner.

Golf Channel will televise all three rounds live from 4-6 p.m. ET on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Langer (65) wins regular-season finale by six

By Associated PressOctober 14, 2018, 10:07 pm

CARY, N.C. – Bernhard Langer ran away with the SAS Championship on Sunday to take the points lead into the PGA Tour Champions' Charles Schwab Cup playoffs

Langer shot a bogey-free 7-under 65 for a six-stroke victory in the regular-season finale.

''I just played very solid all day long,'' Langer said. ''Putted well, hit the ball where I was looking and did everything exceptionally well.''

The 61-year-old German star has 38 victories on the 50-and-over tour, also winning this year near Houston. He has a record four victories after turning 60.

''I don't have anything to prove, but I still have golf,'' Langer said. ''I still want to improve my own game. I still want to play to the best Bernhard Langer can play. I don't think I need to prove anything, but I love competing, I love winning or being in the hunt. As long as I can do that, I think you're going to see me out here.''

Langer finished with a tournament-record 22-under 194 total at Prestonwood Country Club, the tree-lined layout softened by heavy rain Thursday from Hurricane Michael. He opened with a 62 on Friday to match Gene Sauers and Tom Lehman for the lead, and had a 67 on Saturday to remain atop the leaderboard with Sauers.


Full-field scores from the SAS Championship


''The 10 under was amazing,'' Langer said. ''I couldn't believe there were two other guys who shot 10 under.''

The four-time Charles Schwab Cup winner also won at Prestonwood in 2012.

''It's always fun to go back to where you've won before because you feel like you know how to play the course and you're somewhat comfortable and that's certainly the case here,'' Langer said. ''I've been probably 50, 70 times now around this golf course and I know how to play every hole.''

Scott Parel was second, closing with a double bogey for a 65.

''Bernhard is just in his own world this week,'' Parel said.

Jerry Kelly had a 68 to finish third at 15 under, and Lehman followed at 13 under after a 71.

Sauers shot a 75 to tie for fifth with Miguel Angel Jimenez (68) at 12 under.

The top 72 players in the Schwab Cup standings qualified for the playoffs, the three-event series that begins next week with the Dominion Energy Charity Classic in Richmond, Va. Dan Forsman tied for 56th to jump from 74th to 72nd, edging John Huston for the final spot by $932. Huston tied for 46th.

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Pepperell captures British Masters, eyes Augusta

By Associated PressOctober 14, 2018, 5:29 pm

WALTON HEATH, England -- Eddie Pepperell won his second European Tour title with a two-shot victory at the British Masters on Sunday and likely secured the even bigger prize of a place in next year's Masters at Augusta National.

The Englishman shot an even-par 72 and held off his playing partner, Sweden's Alexander Bjork (71), as the pair went to the 72nd hole at a wet and windy Walton Heath with Pepperell just a stroke in front.

Pepperell finished on 9-under 279.

Herbert Lucas (69) and Jordan Smith (73) were tied for third, another two shots behind Bjork.

English pair Sam Horsfield (69) and Tom Lewis (70) along with American Julian Suri (74) tied for fifth, one shot in front of tournament host Justin Rose (70).

The victory takes Pepperell into the world's top 35 and almost certainly secures a first appearance at Augusta in 2019. The top 50 at the end of the year are guaranteed a place in the first major of the year in April.

Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood (72) finished 2 under in a seven-way tie for ninth.


Full-field scores from the British Masters


A top-two finish on Sunday would have seen Rose reach the top of the world rankings for the second time this season, the 38-year-old having spent two weeks as No. 1 in September

Pepperell was ranked outside the top 500 as recently as May last year, but won the Qatar Masters in February and followed a runner-up finish in the Scottish Open with a tie for sixth in the British Open seven days later, carding a closing 67 at Carnoustie despite saying he had a hangover.

His three-shot overnight lead was down to a single stroke on Sunday when Bjork covered the front nine in 34 and Pepperell three-putted the ninth, the same hole where he enjoyed a spectacular hole-in-one on Thursday.

However, the 27-year-old Pepperell promptly holed his second shot to the 10th from 122 yards for an eagle to move three clear and a par save from off the green on the 14th looked to have sealed the win.

There was still time for some late drama, though, as Pepperell dropped shots on Nos. 15 and 16 to see his lead cut to a single shot, but Bjork bogeyed the 18th after driving into the heather and Pepperell saved par from a greenside bunker.

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Disappointed Sharma fades to T-10 at CIMB

By Will GrayOctober 14, 2018, 1:46 pm

For the second time this year, India's Shubankhar Sharma watched an opportunity for a breakthrough win turn into a learning experience.

Sharma burst onto the scene in March, taking a two-shot lead into the final round of the WGC-Mexico Championship only to fade to a tie for ninth. It was a similar story Sunday at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, where Sharma started the final round in a three-way tie for the lead but struggled to an even-par 72 that dropped him into a tie for 10th.

"Disappointing, not really happy with the way I finished," Sharma told reporters.


Full-field scores from CIMB Classic

CIMB Classic: Articles, photos and videos


The 22-year-old was 1 over for his first six holes, but he battled back with four straight birdies on Nos. 7-10 to get within three shots of eventual winner Marc Leishman. But his tee shot at the par-3 11th found the water, leading to the first of three straight bogeys that ended any hopes of victory.

"That was probably one of the worst swings of the day," Sharma said. "That 11th hole I think killed the momentum for me. A par there would have gone a long way, and I probably could have made more birdies after that."

Sharma remained optimistic this spring following his final-round fade in Mexico, and he retained a positive mindset despite a rough afternoon as he eyes upcoming starts at both the CJ Cup in South Korea and the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.

"Great experience. Very, very good to have two top-10s on the PGA Tour, so that's a good way of looking at it," he said. "Also, it pushes me to keep playing well. I feel like I have it in me to win out there on the PGA Tour, and I've given myself two opportunities. Game is in a decent place now."