Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs, who's played Torrey Pines many times as a Southern California teaching pro, has a message for players complaining about bumpy greens at this year's U.S. Open: Shut up and play.
"The Florida guys always complain about the greens on the West Coast because they're not Bermuda grass and the poa annua grass can spike up and get a little crusty," Riggs said. "The guys who complain about greens are spoiled and from Florida."
Robert Allenby and Ernie Els, both Florida residents by way of Australia and South Africa respectively, were the biggest gripers after Thursday's opening round despite both players posting excellent 1-under scores. Allenby was the most critical, saying that he's "never seen greens this bumpy." Els called the greens "very tough" and added that he thought they would get worse as the week goes on.
From Riggs' perspective, the players should have been pleased that Torrey Pines played so fairly Thursday. The bunkers weren't too soft and the forward tee boxes on 13 and 18--two par 5s that are almost unreachable from the back tees--put those greens in reach, even for a guy like Phil Mickelson, who didn't carry a driver.
Mickelson's decision wasn't surprising, Riggs said, since the course feels shorter than its 7,600-plus yards because so much of its length is in par 5s. Except for the vicious, uphill 504 yard par-4 12th, Torrey Pines doesn't have the long par 4s that make courses feel long. And more importantly it doesn't have those long, difficult par 3s that make scores go up.
"The par 3s are more playable than most U.S. Opens, and those are the holes where bogeys are made," Riggs said. "It's probably a shot a round easier than most U.S. Opens because of that."
Riggs believes we're headed for a veteran U.S. Open weekend, with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and the surprising Els all in hunt. Adam Scott hit the ball great, Riggs said, but didn't make the score he should have. He could be in the mix on Sunday too, Riggs said.
"Tiger and Phil both missed a lot of fairways but they got the ball in the hole," Riggs said. "The guys who play this course really well are Tiger and Phil, and they are in a great position right now. Lesser guys would have shot 75 or 76 the way they hit the ball Thursday."
(Photo: Robert Beck/SI)