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Odds & Ends from the U.S. Open
Cybergolf's Jeff Shelley is at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines this week. Here are some of Jeff's observations about the event.
• The U.S. Open can be easily equated to the Super Bowl, the Indianapolis 500, a big NASCAR race, or any major sporting event that takes place outdoors, such as the Olympics, over a wide area. It's like a complete city has descended upon Torrey Pines, a 36-hole municipal golf course in La Jolla, Calif. This "city" boasts all the elements found in a community with 42,500 inhabitants - the number of tickets purchased for the sold-out event. Ticket-buyers include residents of more than 25 countries.
• The site contains all the necessary infrastructure for the delivery of water (bottled); utilities, including electricity, sewer - in this case, fancy Sanicans discreetly hidden behind green fencing; housing - actually the corporate white-with-blue trimmed quonset-style huts with be-flowered outdoor decks and "addresses" such as Anhaeuser-Busch, Bumble Bee Foods, Charles Schwab and Comerica; dusty roads with scurrying golf carts and utility vehicles. There is even freshly painted green traffic signs telling fans and staff where the action is.
• The concession prices - the "grocery store" component of this city - don't require buyers to dig too deep in their pocketbooks. Sure, there are $9 hamburgers, but a good Nathan's hot dog is $5, a beer is $6, $9 for a fancy Panini, Cokes are $3.25 and a bottle of water is $2.50.
• As might be expected, the USGA flag flies high and often at the Open. Competing for the signage title are "Recycle" notices, which are nearly everywhere.
• The U.S. Open, along with the British Open, is one of the most democratic athletic events in the world. Big-name golfers mix with not-so-big names, including amateurs, 84 of whom gained entry through Local and Sectional Qualifying to join those who were fully exempt into the field. A total of 156 players teed off on Thursday, though Brett Wetterich withdrew Thursday because of a wrist injury. In his place stepped in first alternate Andrew Svoboda, a 28-year-old pro from Purchase, N.Y. In 2005, Michael Campbell became the first non-fully exempt U.S. Open winner since Steve Jones in 1996.
• In the same vein, the Open, and that's emphasized, finds old-timers like 55-year-old Bart Bryant, who gained entry as the 2007 U.S. Senior Open champion, and Rickie Fowler, a 19-year-old and the youngest player in this year's tournament. This is like having high school football players competing in the Super Bowl alongside all-stars from the Bacon Bowl police league.
• Torrey Pines has its quirks, including a bottleneck at holes 2-6. Ameliorating the situation is that fans can swivel their necks and catch a lot of action on the greens and tees. When that gets tiresome, they can also peer over a rugged canyon for some amazing vistas of the nearby Pacific Ocean.
• When players hit off the par-3s during their practice rounds, the areas in front of them were covered in green mesh to keep those areas from being divot-damaged.
• My guess is that three of the hardest holes at the end of championship will prove to be No. 6, a 515-yard par-4 that usually plays as a par-5, and the 461-yard, par-4 seventh. Both of these dogleg to the right, with bunkers outside the turn. The sixth has the prevailing wind at its back, but a big tree off the tee makes a draw difficult, if not impossible. The seventh heads into the Pacific-propelled wind. I also think the par-3 16th will prove crucial. Not insofar as it being a birdie opportunity, but because par will be a good score. Anything over par on No. 16 could spell doom for a player near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday afternoon.
• The practice green is a serious place. The players thoughtfully "roll the rock" as swing coaches, sports psychologists, caddies and agents lend their assistance for the hardest shot in the game.
• The driving range finds players firing shots in all directions. A big-screen TV squats to the left of the practice area, showing the action on the course which, presumably, will keep players from missing their tee times.
• The players' locker room at Torrey Pines is a temporary structure. A walk through it finds entrants in various states of undress; some eating sandwiches; wood-faced lockers with their name tags; a player getting a massage; guys on cell phones; and, not surprisingly, golf clubs scattered everywhere. If one finds the tools of his trade dysfunctional at anytime during this four-day extravaganza, there are plenty of replacements to be found.
Future U.S. Open Venues
• 2009 - Bethpage State Park (Black Course), Bethpage, NY
• 2010 - Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, CA
• 2011 - Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, MD
• 2012 - The Olympic Club (Lakeside Course), Daly City, CA
• 2013 - Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, PA
• 2014 - Pinehurst Resort, (No. 2), Pinehurst, NC
• 2015 - Chambers Bay Golf Course, University Place, WA