PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — When the USGA announced the U.S. Open would return to Pebble Beach in 2019 for the 100th anniversary of the course, and it would go to Erin Hills in Wisconsin for 2017, it raised the question of a golf course that was not selected.
What about Torrey Pines?
The public course in San Diego staged one of the most memorable U.S. Opens of the decade when Tiger Woods, on a shredded knee, birdied the 72nd hole in regulation to force a playoff, then beat Rocco Mediate in 19 holes.
“It’s still in the conversation,” USGA executive director David Fay said in an interview last week.
Whether Torrey Pines belongs in the same tier as Pebble Beach, Oakmont and Pinehurst No. 2 is up for debate. Even though its championship featured an unforgettable duel, so did Valhalla for the 2000 PGA Championship.
Even so, the course has what it takes – plenty of room, plenty of interest.
“Every time we announce an Open site or sites, people look at that as, ‘My God, what about these other worthy candidates who weren’t picked? Does that mean they’re gone forever, out of favor?’ That’s not the case at all,” Fay said. “Torrey Pines and the city of San Diego remain interested, and we remain interested.”
The question is when. Although 2018 is the only vacant year the rest of the decade, it’s hard to imagine the U.S. Open being played in California in consecutive years. The next seven U.S. Opens will be played in Maryland (Congressional), San Francisco (Olympic Club), Pennsylvania (Merion), North Carolina (Pinehurst), Washington state (Chambers Bay), Pennsylvania (Oakmont) and Wisconsin (Erin Hills).
Erin Hills completes what Fay refers to as all five subsets of public golf – resorts (Pebble, Pinehurst), state-owned (Bethpage Black), county-owned (Chambers Bay), municipal golf (Torrey Pines) and private ownership of a fee course (Erin Hills).
Even though the USGA is going to more courses the public can play, Fay said it would not ignore private country clubs that have so much U.S. Open history, such as Oakmont and Shinnecock Hills.
Where does that leave new country clubs?
“That probably will be harder,” Fay said. “First of all, there are fewer country clubs designed to host big events. It will be difficult. But just as you say that, you never know. It will happen down the road.”
SOMETHING NEW: Among those on the range Sunday at Pebble Beach were a half-dozen players with hopes of winning the U.S. Open, from Dustin Johnson to Graeme McDowell to Ernie Els to Phil Mickelson to Tiger Woods … and Adam Scott?
Scott had missed the cut by one shot on Friday, yet hung around the Monterey Peninsula and was practicing Sunday afternoon. His private plane will not be ready for a few more months, so Scott chose to take the charter flight Monday provided by the Travelers Championship in Connecticut.
That led to the next question: Why is Scott playing in Hartford?
“I’m playing well,” he said with a shrug. “And with my record, you never know.”
He was referring to his tendency to play well in tournaments where he is making his debut, and it is a remarkable record. Scott won the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2003 on a sponsor’s exemption. A year later, he felt he was playing well despite missing the cut in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, so he entered the old Booz Allen Classic and won.
Scott finished in the middle of the pack at The Players Championship, felt he was close, and decided this year to play the Texas Open for the first time. He wound up winning.
The 29-year-old Australian, who continues to play an international schedule, already has played 37 different events on the PGA Tour, including six that no longer exist. The PGA Tour is contemplating a policy that requires top players to add one tournament to their schedule from a group of designated events.
“I should be exempt from that one,” Scott said with a laugh.
GOLFING VACATIONS: Ernie Els spent the week before the U.S. Open playing some of the best courses in the north, from Shinnecock Hills to Pine Valley. It was his way of getting ready for a major.
But there are other players who never travel to play golf except for a tournament or corporate outing. Tiger Woods has yet to play Pine Valley or even Seminole in south Florida.
Steve Stricker said the best course he played outside of a golf tournament was in Chicago. It made such an impression he couldn’t remember the name of it except that it had “Lakes” in the name (and it wasn’t Kemper Lakes).
“We just play so much out here,” Jim Furyk said, who said his best courses were Cypress Point and Shinnecock Hills, both of which he played during weeks of PGA Tour events.
But he will travel overseas for golf, having taken one trip to play Royal County Down, Royal Portrush and Ballybunion in Ireland.
“The guy trips are for football,” said Furyk, mainly the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ohio State.
EUROPEAN SUPREMACY: The PGA Tour has 20 active members from Europe this year, and they sure seem to be winning a lot of tournaments lately.
Justin Rose of England won his first PGA Tour event at the Memorial, and Lee Westwood won the following week in Memphis. Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, who had not taken up membership this year, won the U.S. Open.
It was the first time since the PGA Tour broke away from the PGA of America in 1969 that Europeans have won three weeks in a row.
International players have won seven of the last eight tournaments on the PGA Tour, a streak that began with Rory McIlroy winning the Quail Hollow Championship.
DIVOTS: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are the only players who have finished in the top 10 at both majors this year. … Paula Creamer’s gutsy return from a thumb injury won’t include the CVS Charity Classic next week. She withdrew from the charity event run by Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade, saying it might be too much to play four straight weeks, including a pair of LPGA Tour majors. Creamer was replaced by Ricky Barnes. … Ryan Moore wasn’t a big fan of the way the course was set up at Pebble Beach, saying this to The Tacoma (Wash.) New-Tribune, “In their minds, this is a great golf tournament. This is how golf should be. It should be torture, apparently.” … Ten years after a winning at Pebble Beach with a record 12-under par, Tiger Woods was under par for one of 72 holes – the 18th on Saturday – at this U.S. Open.