The last time the US Open was held at Torrey Pines was 2008. The victor? None other than Tiger Woods.

Playing with a stress fracture in his left leg Tiger summoned all his courage and resolution to do the remarkable- willing his ball into the hole from all kinds of weird and wonderful places. No more lasting image is more memorable than his jubilation in holing a 12 foot birdie putt on the 72nd green.

Despite all his antics of chip ins and long sweeping putts finding the bottom of the cup throughout the tournament it still came down to him having to make just one more putt to tie Rocco Mediate on the very last hole. And in the words of commentator Dan Hicks when the ball bounced along the imperfect grass and slid into the right edge to complete the tie “Expect anything different”…we all came to know one more time that Tiger Woods was anything but normal



There will be no Tiger Woods at this year’s event- but if history is anything to go by the municipal South Course at Torrey Pines in the Sand Diego suburb of La Jolla the winner should be someone with a history of playing well at this venue.

The golf course will be very similar to the one we see each January or early February when the PGA Tour hosts the Famers Insurance Open at the same venue. US Open setups are generally renowned for having increased thickness of rough surrounding the fairways and greens yet in the regular event early in the season the rough is always up to a certain degree so we shouldn’t expect too much difference in that regard. The main difference should be slightly firmer faster running fairways which could play a slight role in propelling some drives forwards and sideways as the slopes on most holes tend to fall towards the ocean cliffs sprawling at the far western point of the course. Ironically, the ocean, whilst providing a beautiful backdrop only really comes into play on one hole- the left side of the 4th hole.

I myself had some success at Torrey Pines with an 8th place finish back in the 2000 Buick Classic shooting 11 under par behind winner Phil Mickelson and runner up Tiger Woods. Knowing the course as such allows me some insight into just who may be the top performers this week.

US Open Championships were always the major I felt suited my game best. Fairways and greens and not a letdown when you make a par. I liked that par was a good score on most holes. I was fortunate to play in four US Opens- making three of the four cuts and a highest place finish of 16th in the 1997 Championship at Congressional GC. Grinding out pars and limiting any mishap to a bogey is the key ingredient to US Open survival. Birdies are a little harder to come by- so eliminating the 5’s and especially 6’s from the card was a great game plan to abide by.

I wouldn’t call Phil Mickelson my favorite for the week but the stars may just align for Lefty. This event takes place in Mickelson’s back yard. Born and bred in San Diego there is no bigger opportunity for him to finally get that US Open trophy after finishing six times as the runner up in his National Open. Add the fact he just proved to himself he can still win at this level by claiming the PGA Championship in May then it could really be a Cinderella story. I don’t see it happening but Phil will gather a lot of the attention.

Past results at Torrey Pines are predominantly the basis of who to look for and who to put your money on.

Recent winners playing this week include Patrick Reed, Marc Leishman, Justin Rose and Jon Rahm.

Rahm seems to be the form horse. He had the field at The Memorial Tournament playing for second place just a few weeks ago until the wild circumstance of a p[positive covid test relegated him to spectator for the round that should have crowned him as the winner. Rahm has since returned negative tests and is all clear to play at Torrey. I don’t think the time off would have hurt him. He could still practice some in isolation and arriving later than some other players to the venue as a result of the protocols could work in his favor to avoid a little of the initial attention that pre-tournament stars are subjected to.

Patrick Reed can never be overlooked. He likes the toughness of Major Championships and the extra mental stimuli it asks of each player. His short game is top of the tree amongst his peers and always a necessary tool in a US Open. He likes confrontation and no other event offers as many challenges to a player than the USGA setup for their National Championship.

My three other main contenders to watch for all come from  California roots. Patrick Cantlay, Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele.

Schauffele is also a local and seems to be a constant threat in Major Championships. Cantlay is also always a contender albeit in an unassuming role and Morikawa consistently leads the Tour in iron approaches relative to the hole. Each of the three players have all the tools necessary to be victorious come Sunday afternoon.

Clouds hang over the heads of Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka and even Bryson DeChambeau- the defending champion.

DJ’s game hasn’t seemed to be working at full gear very often throughout the season but Torey Pines does setup nicely for a long faded tee shot so visually the course should suit his eye. The same could be said for Koepka but his recent form has been scrappy and no-one really knows how his knee is holding up- but we do have the Tiger Woods precedent for the injured golfer to come through. Brooks thrives in Major Championship conditions so he can never truly be counted out just on that fact alone. DeChambeau seems to be having driving issues with misses going in both directions. A two way miss is never a comfortable feeling when standing on a tee shot under US Open conditions so he may be the least likely of these big three to find his way to the contenders circle come late Sunday afternoon.

I hope you enjoy the event. I am not traveling to Torrey Pines for this year’s event only having one participant- Brendon Todd- in the field. I like his game for this type of event. Hitting fairways is crucial and BT is one of the best in the business at doing that. If his iron play is on song and he can utilize his excellent short game than there is no reason why he couldn’t be in with a chance come the money end of the tournament.

Bradley Hughes