Having spent a week at Torrey Pines in January while broadcasting the Buick Invitational, I feel confident that for the U.S. Open, the South Course will play every bit as tough as the USGA wants it to. The weather in La Jolla, California, is reliable enough that officials can be assured of having a dry, hard playing surface and a decent breeze—and that’s all it will take to make par a good score. The fairways have enough movement in them, especially when the ground is dry, that what appear to be good tee shots may get kicked into the rough.
We’ll have to see what the USGA does with the heavy grass. I’d like to see the rough kept short enough that players will actually be able to play for the greens. It’s always a lot more fun to see guys try to pull off approach shots from unpredictable lies than it is to watch them hack out with a wedge and then follow that up with another wedge to the green. There’s not a lot of skill required for either of those shots. Nor is there much pressure. Players tie themselves in more of a knot when they’re going to go for the green. Why not set them up for flier lies and see if someone can pull off a career shot?
One thing to look for is “safe” approach shots that don’t succeed. I expect that the greens will be firm and the pins will be tucked enough that players won’t shoot for them. But what happens at Torrey Pines is that the part of the green that’s supposed to be safe has a ridge running through it that will generally repel the ball. That leaves the possibility of players having to make a chip or a very long putt back over this ridge. If they can still get up and down from situations like that, they’re going to get a boost.