It’s US Open week, and the question on everybody’s lips, as ever, is about how difficult the course is going to play.
Often referred to as the toughest examination of a professional golfer’s game, the US Open is notorious for its difficult set-up and, with the tournament returning to Torrey Pines, more of the same is expected.
The 121st US Open will be just the second time that the Californian course has hosted a major tournament, the first being Tiger Woods’ 2008 US Open victory, which he won with a score of one-under par.
With excitement building ahead of the third men’s major of the season, bunkered caught up with Scott Bentley, the deputy director of the city of San Diego’s golf division to give us the inside track on Torrey Pines.
Has there been an intense level of preparation to get the course in shape for this week?
"A lot of it is just a matter of mowing more often and getting things down to the right heights. We closed our North Course, which is being used for infrastructure for the tournament. It’s going to be a driving range, have tents for players, media and hospitality. That’s helped get more staff over on the South Course. We are mowing three or four times a week and getting the detail done."
Can you give away what fans can look forward to?
"We asked in original architect Rees Jones to have a look at the course and see if there was any changes we would like to make. The course is now playing an extra 100 yards. The most significant change is at the 17th. We have straightened the hole out, and there’s now only a couple of yards of rough before you hit the canyon. Jones also brought the bunkers in much tighter and made them much larger. So, even if players decide they don’t want to hit a driver on that hole, the bunkers come into play. If you’re going to lay up, you’re going to have to take the bunkers on. Players are forced to think about how to play it and that’s the mindset that we wanted to accomplish."
Any hidden traps for players to be wary of?
"It’s going to be a traditional US Open. It’s just going to be long and tough. One of the key danger points is at 13. If you are a little short with your second shot, then you are going to be out of position. There are six bunkers short of the green and it’s a very steep uphill shot to the green. There’s a new tongue at the front of the green that we put back in just for the US Open. If players miss the bunkers and come up short, the ball is going to roll back about 80 yards. It’s all mowed down on the approach area."
What will the rough be like?
"The rough is going to be more consistent, longer and tougher. It’s going to be hugely difficult for players to hit greens if they miss the fairway. The holes play so long that hitting a wedge in won’t be an option, it will be long irons out of the thick rough. It’s going to be difficult, no doubt."
What will the winning score be?
"We would like to see something close to par. We have lengthened the course since Tiger Woods won at one-under in 2008. Our agronomy practices are stronger, the rough is tougher and the greens are going to be firmer and faster. We have moved bunkers around to be more of a threat. Par is going to be a good score around here for players."