Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla hosts the prestigious U.S. Open beginning Thursday, with two locals in the spotlight for different reasons.
Phil Mickelson, who has won six majors, does not have a U.S. Open crown – and he re-asserted himself last month with a milestone win at the PGA Championship.
San Diego State grad Xander Schauffele has yet to log a major win – and observers are looking for him to bust out. Schauffele’s best Open finish was in 2019 when he tied for third.
He also finished tied for second on the same course in January in the Farmers Insurance Open.
“People always talk about how hard it is to play in your hometown or win in their hometown,” he told Golf.com. “Fortunately for me, I was able to sort of get the monkey off my back at the Farmers this past year finishing 2nd. That showed me that I can play at this course and this tournament.”
J.J. Spaun, another Aztec, and Charley Hoffman, out of Poway High, are also in the field of 156 golfers.
The last time Torrey Pines hosted the Open, in 2008, Tiger Woods fought his way to a classic win in a playoff, even on a seriously injured leg. A U.S. Open contributor called his performance “arguably the grittiest major championship win in history.”
Fans probably shouldn’t count on seeing something iconic this year, but at least they can attend, as U.S. Open officials eased pandemic-era restrictions to allow attendance.
There are several storylines to follow though. Mickelson has come very close at the U.S. Open, finishing as runner-up or tied for second in 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2013.
ESPN queried its field of experts for U.S. Open predictions with six homing in on Schauffele as the favorite. One chose Mickelson, while three others selected hard-luck Jon Rahm.
Rahm, who won the Farmers Insurance Open four years ago, had to withdraw from a tournament earlier this month after testing positive for COVID-19. He led by six shots with just one round to go.
Tee times on Torrey Pines’ south course begin at 6:45 a.m. Thursday. The Golf Channel, Peacock and NBC will provide TV coverage, with NBC (Channel 7 in San Diego) dominating the weekend broadcasts, starting at 11 a.m. Saturday and noon Sunday, the tournament’s final day.