I was sitting at a table in the media lunchroom with a couple of writers when golf course architect Rees Jones, known as the Open Dr., sat down and joined us. He’s pleasant and typically modest in a profession where modesty doesn’t pay and isn’t the norm. He always seems to enjoy the give-and-take with writers.
The U.S. Open is at Torrey Pines on the South Course this week in large part because Jones extensively remodeled the layout and made it Open-worthy.
Jones is happy with the setup, but he said the greens were a little softer and slower on Tuesday than he would’ve liked. He attributed that to the volunteer grounds crew of superintendents, who may have slightly over-watered. A sunny forecast later in the week should firm the greens by the weekend. Somewhat lower-than-normal scores could be possible in the first two rounds, probably followed by a grim march of pars on the weekend.
Rees thinks three or four under par will be the winning score, lower than the past few Opens, because the USGA has kept Torrey’s fairways relatively wide — 28 or 29 yards, which is big by Open standards. That’s may help compensate for the extreme length of the course, which is more than 7,600 yards.
He likes the return of the USGA’s graduated-rough system. Rees says players will face pretty easy shots on medium-length pitches, but the short pitches and chips around the greens, because of the gnarly grass, will be very difficult.
He’s renovating Cog Hill, Chicagoland’s most famous public course, with an eye toward landing the Open. One nine is done, the other has been seeded. He thinks it will turn out to be a pretty good Open site when it’s done. He’s the Open Doctor, so he should know.