US Open: Level par could win it

Stroke average stats confirm Torrey Pines predictions

Golfmagic correspondent
Tue, 10 Jun 2008

US Open
Torrey Pines' 18th green where players will face some tricky finishing putts. Pics: Charles Briscoe-Knight (

The countdown to this week's US Open started almost ten years ago when a group of San Diego entrepreneurs and visionaries put their minds and funding together. They hired course architect Rees Jones to extensively renovate the South course of the Torrey Pines Municipal and successfully applied to the United States Golf Association to stage it as the venue for the 2008 US Open.

"We've been actually preparing for two tournaments, the Buick Invitational (in January 2009) and the US Open," said Mark Woodward, golf operations manager this week. "The grasses on greens and fairways have been changed, bunkers were added to the 6th hole and the fairway on the 4th hole was moved 15 yards west to bring the Pacific Ocean cliffs more into play."

US Open golf
The iconic fifth hole on the South course at Torrey Pines

For the Buick the South course is a par-72, about 7,400 yards long with manageable rough but for the Open it's a par-71 (the 6th hole becomes a par-4) of about 7,600 yards in length, with penal rough and fast greens.

Woodward reckons the winning score will be around even par - just as the USGA likes it.

"Somewhere around even par, maybe as much as two over," Woodward predicts. "It's fair but challenging with the kikuyu grass rough significantly shorter than you've seen at recent US Opens."

This is because kikuyu has density rather than height. As those who have played in southern Africa will appreciate, a blade of this grass is at least double the width of traditional rye grass.

"It's hard to move a club head through it," says Woodward. "If we had grown primary rough up to five or six inches we could have made it too rough or unfair, very easily. But that's not what it's about."

US open golf
Torrey Pines' 6th hole - reduced to a long par-4

The last two U.S Opens have been won with scores of five over par - by Geoff Ogilvy and Angel Cabrera - but Woodward believes familiarity of the course and improved techniques will keep the scores down.

However, they will need to have their putting in shape because the greens on this Californian course will be ultra quick.

Despite much of the focus on this being the longest US Open course (7,643 yards) and the rough more dense, the stimpmeter will record the greens running at around 13 seconds, as opposed to Buick Invitational speed of 11 seconds.

"They've never played Torrey Pines where the greens have been this fast," he says. "There are going to be some interesting putts on 18, especially with certain pin locations - but nothing unfair."

Andrew Swales has collated the stroke averages for the leading contenders in recent US Opens (minimum of 10 rounds), which bears out Mark Woodward's contention that this year's event could be won with a score around level par for four rounds of 284.

Stroke AveragePlayerNo. of Rounds
71.36Tiger Woods22
71.64Phil Mickelson22
72.09Jim Furyk22
72.27Mike Weir22
72.33Vijay Singh 24
72.52David Toms 21
72.54Ernie Els24
72.56Tim Clark16
72.60Justin Rose 10
72.64Steve Flesch 14
72.64Steve Stricker 14
72.65Padraig Harrington 20
72.70Sergio Garcia 20
72.75Angel Cabrera24
72.78Justin Leonard 18
72.86Geoff Ogilvy 14
72.89Retief Goosen 18
72.90Brandt Jobe10
73.00Robert Allenby 18
73.00Niclas Fasth 14
73.00Ryuji Imada10
73.29Luke Donald14
73.33Rocco Mediate 12
73.38Colin Montgomerie16
73.39Stewart Cink18


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