Given the difficulty of the task facing the marshals at the 2008 U.S. Open — keeping the crowds under control around the glamour threesome of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott — you half expect them to be in some underground lair fueling up on espresso, listening to Eminem and head-butting each other.
Be that as it may, Hank Thompson, the USGA’s point man for the 2,500 marshals this week, appears to be relatively calm.
"We’ll bulk some areas up at the pinch points," Thompson told me. Pinch points! Just a few minutes into our chat and the marshal lingo was at DEFCON 4. Like what kind of pinch points? Dimples?
"Two to three is tight. Five back to six. Both sides of 18," Thompson said. "We’ll focus on the exits from greens and entrances to the tees so players aren’t impeded."
Each marshal undergoes a training session of just over an hour before earning his stripes, a sipffy blue-and-white windbreaker. There are hole marshals and there are grandstand marshals. (Every hole but the second features grandstands.) There will also be uniformed San Diego Police officers and other security types, not to mention a whole lot of media, tailing Tiger, Phil and Adam.
Thompson, who lives in Long Island, N.Y., and will be the assistant manager for the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, said he expects 50,000-55,000 people per day at Torrey Pines this week, including fans, members of the press, players, caddies, vendors, volunteers and everyone else. (Keep in mind this estimate does not include stray hang-gliders.)
He had an idea what to expect based on the five-deep crowds that followed Woods in his 7 a.m. practice rounds Monday and Tuesday, but he confirmed that the 1-2-3 threesome could be his ultimate challenge.
"It’s certainly lining up that way," he said. "These three guys don’t get paired up together very often, and Phil being local makes him even more of a draw. It’s new to us." Photos: Robert Beck/SI