The United States Open Championship returns to Torrey Pines in San Diego, the site of Tiger Woods’ remarkable 2008 win. Here is all you need to know about the course, players to watch, TV times and the seven Aussies in the field.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Bryson DeChambeau derived the benefits of his bulked up physique at Winged Foot in 2020. The American reaching six-under-par over the course of four rounds in September to claim his maiden major title. DeChambeau was the lone player to finish under par for the week, with compatriot Matthew Wolff second on his own six shots back and Louis Oosthuizen third at two-over.
COURSE: The South Course at Torrey Pines welcomes the world’s best male players for the second time in 2021. But those in the field who teed it up at the Farmers Insurance Open in January will be faced with a far different test this week.
Set to measure 7,652 yards and playing to a par of 71, the South Course under the USGA’s control features long and thick rough, while the summer heat will see harder fairways and greens, that are also expected to be lightning fast.
Father and son design duo William P. Bell and William F. Bell laid out the South Course, which opened in 1957 on the site of a former naval training centre, with the junior Bell completing the majority of the work after his father’s death. William F. Bell also designed the North Course, which shares Farmers Insurance Open hosting duties, but it is the South Course that is the significantly more difficult of the two layouts.
Rees Jones went to work on a redesign that was completed in 2002 before returning to further update the course sitting on the clifftops above the Pacific Ocean in 2019.
PLAYERS TO WATCH …
Prior to his withdrawal at The Memorial following a positive COVID test Jon Rahm was already set to top this list. But having led the field by six shots after 54 holes only to be forced to bow out, the Spaniard makes for an even more tantalising viewing prospect.
The 26-year-old has now recorded two negative tests to give him the all clear to tee it up at Torrey Pines, where he is something of a specialist. Rahm won for the first time on the PGA Tour at this venue in 2017 and has since gone T29, T5, 2nd and T7. Combine his obvious comfort with the course with 11 top-25 finishes from 19 major appearances and the clear form on display at Muirfield Village in his last start, and Rahm is comfortably one of the favourites.
The defending champion, Bryson DeChambeau, cannot obviously not be ignored as a US Open winner, but also one of the longest in the field on extremely long golf course.
DeChambeau continues to chase distance gains, and those of the muscular variety, and as he showed at Winged Foot his strength and unique club setup is an advantage at the US Open, not only off the tee.
RIGHT: Bryson DeChambeau gazes at the spoils of his 2020 US Open win at Winged Foot. PHOTO: Jamie Squire/Getty Images.
DeChambeau’s longer irons and wedges, more upright lie angles and shear brute power helped a great deal from the long rough at the tough New York layout, and should afford him the same advantage here.
The power from the tee will also likely be of significant assistance when approaching the smallish greens with shorter clubs than many of his competitors, however, this hasn’t proven the case in the past on a non-USGA controlled setup.
Two appearances (2017 and 2018) at the Farmers Insurance have netted two missed cuts, while the last two calendar months have seen the World No.5 record just two finishes inside the top-20 in an fairly light schedule. DeChambeau was tied for 18th in his last tournament appearance at Jack’s place, and was out early on Monday with San Diego local Phil Mickelson for a practice round at Torrey Pines, where he surely picked Lefty’s brain.
Mickelson also makes this list, as he seemingly has for an eternity when US Open week arrives. But this is far more than the annual mention of his quest for the career grand slam after his heroics at Kiawah Island just a few weeks ago.
Turning 51 on Wednesday this week, Mickelson won the PGA Championship at Pete Dye’s diabolical test and entered the record books yet again, and is a genuine chance to finally exorcize his US Open demons.
Mickelson was phenomenal over the course of four days on his way to a second Wannamaker trophy last month, and has found a new ability to maintain his focus on the course during tournament rounds.
Having grown up in the area there will be plenty of motivation for Phil to once again shock the world and perhaps grab the title he seemingly covets most.
If you were tipping purely on form, Marc Leishman would be unlikely to make this list. However, a major championship is a different beast, especially one played at a venue where a player is clearly so well suited.
The Victorian won here in 2020 and owns two runner-up finishes at Torrey Pines, as well as four other top-20s. But the man from Warrnambool arrives of the back of a missed cut at the PGA and share of 57th at The Memorial. And it wasn't long ago he teamed with Cam Smith to win the Zurich Classic.
Certainly not a typical US Open style of player, Leishman is magnificent in the wind and will be hoping the breeze off the ocean is strong for much of the week to heighten his chances of finally joining the major championship winners’ club.
Leishman’s fellow Aussie Adam Scott warrants a mention here as well, despite similarly showing indifferent form of late.
The Queenslander bounced back from a weekend off at Kiawah Island with a T16 at Muirfield Village, once again proving himself something of a rocks or diamonds prospect in 2021.
Scott was runner-up at Torrey in 2019 to Justin Rose before skipping the event the following year then returning for a share of 10th earlier this year. Clearly liking the layout, Scott’s ball striking, particularly his mid- and long-iron play, will be a significant asset around the South Course. So too will the course’s smallish greens and similar surfaces to those found around much of Australia help his comfort levels on the greens relative to the rest of the field.
The 2013 Masters winner was also T26 when the America’s national championship last visited Torrey and the South Course in 2008.
72-HOLE RECORD: Rory McIlroy set the tournament scoring record in 2011 at Congressional Country Club when claiming his first major trophy. The Northern Irishman needing just 268 strokes over four days for a resounding eight shot win over Queenslander Jason Day. McIlroy’s 16-under is also the low mark in relation to par, one equalled by Brooks Koepka in 2017 at Erin Hills.
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: Geoff Ogilvy (2006) and David Graham (1981).
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Stephen Allan, Matt Jones, Brad Kennedy, Marc Leishman, Wade Ormsby, Adam Scott and Cameron Smith.
Round 1: Friday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 4am – 12pm)
Round 2: Saturday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 4am – 12pm)
Round 3: Sunday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 3am – 11am)
Round 4: Monday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 2am – 10am)
*AEST, check local guides