Patience the key at US Open

June 16, 2021

The US Open is not for sissies. Tradition dictates that the USPGA sets up the courses to test the physical and mental limits of a golfer during US Open week, and often they cut the par rating to 70, which also accounts for the high scores during the week, writes Gary Lemke.

Torrey Pines, in San Diego, hosts the US Open for only the second time in its history. It is a regular fixture on the PGA Tour’s annual calendar, with the Farmers Insurance Open taking place there early in the season. It is also a home from home for Tiger Woods, who dominated events there. 

He won the Farmers seven times and his total of eight PGA Tour wins is his record for the most at one course. He was undefeated at Torrey Pines from 2005-08, winning five tournaments in a four-year span, which included the 2008 US Open.

All those golfers who were beaten by Tiger in his prime at Torrey Pines speak of his brilliance, his shot-making, showmanship and, interestingly when it comes to the 2021 US Open, his brute strength.

Tiger in the early 2000s was virtually untouchable. While he denied players such as Ernie Els a couple more Majors, and certainly kept a handful of golfers from earning the fame they would have had if he was not in the picture, he changed the face of 21st century golf. He also made journeymen PGA Tour pros overnight millionaires by raising TV viewerships and attracting huge sponsors to the sport.

At the heart of his domination was Torrey Pines.

Torrey Pines will suit the longer hitters – apologies if that doesn’t exactly narrow down the options – but it will also help those with forearms like Free State boertjies. The rough will be tough and the fairway landing areas requiring a surgeon’s precision. It might also help to look at who has done well at the Farmers Insurance Open when looking at players for your fantasy selections. 

This year the tournament was won by Patrick Reed, who put together an impressive 14-under 274 to beat Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele, Henrik Norlander, Tony Finau and Ryan Palmer by five shots. Jon Rahm and Will Zalatoris were in a threesome six shots behind Reed.

Last year Reed finished tie-sixth with Finau, five shots behind Marc Leishmann, with Rahm runner-up. Rory McIlroy was tie-third.

In 2019, Rahm was tie-fifth with McIlroy, with Hideki Matsuyama tie-third. Reed was tie-13th, alongside Finau.

As Woods showed, and as Brown echoed on his reflection years after losing to him in 1999, this is a ‘horses for courses’ layout. There’s a consistency to the names who have done well at Torrey Pines in recent times: Reed, Rahm, Finau, McIlroy. Three of them have the ‘muscle’ it takes to get out of trouble when they get into it, which is inevitable, while McIlroy has the shot-making ability to prevent a bogey turning into a double bogey.

Interestingly, Bryson DeChambeau, an obvious name to raise when thinking about Torrey Pines, has skipped the past three years of the Farmers Insurance Open. In fact, you need to go back to 2018 to see when he last played there and he shot rounds of 70 and 76 to miss the cut. Finau, that name again, finished tie-sixth.

World No 1 Dustin Johnson has a similarly interesting relationship with Torrey Pines. He has bypassed the past four years at the Farmers Insurance and the last time he played the course in a competition was in 2017 when he shot rounds of 72 and 74 and missed the cut. That same year DeChambeau also missed the cut, after loops of 78 and 74. Rahm won that year.

Horses for courses indeed.

US OPEN LOWEST WINNING SCORES

(Past 60 years)

-16 Rory McIlroy (2011), Brooks Koepka (2017)

-13 Gary Woodland (2019)

-12 Tiger Woods (2000)

-9 Martin Kaymer (2014)

HIGHEST WINNING SCORES

(Past 60 years)

+9 Julius Boris (1963)

+7 Hale Irwin (1974)

+5 Geoff Ogilvy (2006), Angel Cabrera (2007)

+3 Lou Graham (1973)

+2 Gary Player (1965), Jack Nicklaus (1972)

NUMBERS

-1 Tiger Woods’ winning score at Torrey Pines (2008).

6 Since 2015, the past six winners of the US Open have all been American golfers. Germany’s Martin Kaymer (2014) was the last ‘foreigner’ to win the tournament.

5 South African winners of the US Open – Gary Player (1965), Ernie Els (1994 and 1997) and Retief Goosen (2001 and 2004).

3 The position in which Louis Oosthuizen finished last year, shooting rounds of 67, 74, 68 and 73 for a two-over-par 282. The only player under par was the winner Bryson DeChambeau.

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