The United States Golf Association is beginning to shake its reputation as having an East Coast bias for the U.S. Open. The return of the 121st U.S. Open to Torrey Pines means another prime-time spectacle along the Eastern seaboard, which is becoming more common for the U.S. Open. It wasn’t until the 48th round of this national championship that it went west of Colorado, with Ben Hogan won at Riviera in Los Angeles. That marked the beginning of eight U.S. Opens in California over the next 50 years.

The following 25 years will see the same number of US Opens on the West Coast, including one at Los Angeles Country Club in 2023. One advantage is the ability to watch in prime time, with the weekend finale scheduled for 9 p.m. EDT on Saturday and 8 p.m. EDT on Sunday.

“It’s always good to have a West Coast site leading up to or coming out of the next TV negotiations,” former USGA executive director David Fay said.

In 2015, at Chambers Bay south of Seattle, a 12-year agreement with Fox (since returned to NBC) began. The next TV contract at Pebble Beach would begin in 2027.

Then there’s the weather to consider. Jordan Spieth remarked before arriving at Torrey Pines, “I’ve been checking at the forecast.” “Cooler evenings, 75°F during the day, and no rain.” They are free to do anything they want.”

As appealing as it may seem, it is not always so for the players. All signs from three days of practise indicate that the USGA has the South course exactly where it wants it, with little risk of something unforeseen wreaking havoc. It’s bad enough that you’re missing the fairways. Missing the green may be more problematic. South African big basher Wilco Nienaber discovered this behind the fifth green on Wednesday. All he could do was hack at it to get it up in the air and moving, then watch it roll 25 feet by the hole.

Sure, it’s difficult. That is what players have come to anticipate from the United States Open. That works everywhere in the country, East and West, or somewhere in the middle.

McIlroy arrived later than normal for the US Open, owing to his participation in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January. It’s not the same — not even close — yet he knows where the ball should go and where he shouldn’t miss.

His aim is that he will not be too sluggish out of the gate. McIlroy has gone seven years since his last major victory, the 2014 PGA Championship, which is much too long for a player of his calibre. He has begun 75-76-75 in his previous three majors, two of which have been the Masters.

“I was probably placing too much pressure on myself, playing too cautiously, and being a bit timid,” McIlroy explained. “I believe that about wraps it up.”

McIlroy recently won the Quail Hollow Club Championship. Dustin Johnson hasn’t won a tournament in four months. The pieces seemed to fall into place for him last week in South Carolina, until he was knocked out of the top ten on Sunday following a triple bogey on the 16th hole.

The course, as it usually does, is expected to take centre stage, even over the ridiculous animosity between Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka.

Mike Davis, the USGA’s departing CEO, visited the course over the weekend and was reminded of how difficult it was in 2008. Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate tied for first place at 1-under 283, with Woods winning in a playoff after 19 holes.

“It played like a US Open should, you had to hit all the shots,” Davis remarked. We put our shot-making abilities to the test. We put your course administration to the test. We put your nerves to the test when it really mattered.”

When will it be back after this year? That is a slightly more difficult question. During that early 50-year span of eight Opens in California, Riviera won in 1948, with the other seven going to Olympic Club and Pebble Beach.

Torrey Pines was a proponent of going public. Fay campaigned for Bethpage Black in 2002, which was a tremendous hit, especially with Woods holding off Phil Mickelson on the final nine. The second iteration was a rain-soaked disaster that was lucky to finish on Monday — Lucas Glover won — and it’s no longer in the running.

Would the US Open have been reintroduced if Woods had not won?

When Bethpage and Torrey were granted the Opens, former USGA executive director David Fay stated, “Having the champion you want does assist.”

The USGA intends to rotate US Open courses such as Pebble Beach, Oakmont, Shinnecock Hills, and Pinehurst, leaving less opportunity for others.

“We adore Torrey Pines, and let’s see what happens this week,” said John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of championships for the USGA. “Once again, I won’t predict on the future, but we like everything about this location. It will be given the attention it deserves.”

Whether there’s room for Torrey Pines, redemption for Chambers Bay, or a rising star at Los Angeles Country Club, the West Coast knows how to put on a show.

References:

Doug Ferguson, The Detroit News. “A Return to Torrey and Prime Time for US Open on West Coast.” Associated Press, 17 June 2021, eu.detroitnews.com/story/sports/golf/2021/06/17/return-torrey-and-prime-time-us-open-west-coast/7725566002.

Writer, Doug Ferguson Golf. “A Return To Torrey And Prime Time For US Open On West Coast.” KPBS Public Media, 17 June 2021, www.kpbs.org/news/2021/jun/17/return-torrey-and-prime-time-us-open-west-coast.

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