John Renslow: A brief overview of the US Open
We know that the best golfers in the world play on the PGA Tour. Nearly every week, these players meet on championship courses to match skill and wits.
The better the performance, the larger take of the purse, and if they don’t play well, they don’t get paid. Each week is important.
However, a handful of events carry more weight. Four of these tournaments are superior, made so by heritage, type of property/course, and strength of field. As a group they are known as “majors.”
This week, at the Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, the United States Golf Association hosts the United States Open Championship. Entry is available (or open) to virtually any skilled player who would like to qualify.
As compared to other events, we may be solely based on prior performance or by invitation only, but this one is even open the public. Aspiring professionals and many of the country’s best amateurs will plunk down a few bucks and tee it up with the goal of qualifying.
Qualifying begins at the local level. A small number of top players will then advance to a regional qualifier. After two rounds (36 holes) at the regional level, a few elite players will go on to compete in the United States Open. All told, about 8,000 players will make the attempt and a few dozen will qualify for our country’s national championship.
The full field is composed of players who qualified through other means; the top players on the PGA Tour based on rank, top foreign players, and those who played well in the previous U.S. Open Championship.
This year’s television coverage will nearly be dawn to dusk and I would encourage you to watch the world’s best play on a golf course that is set up to be a test. Relax with your favorite beverage and enjoy the show. Allow me to give you a brief overview, an informal program to help break the ice.
In 1895 the first U.S. Open Championship was conducted in Rhode Island. It was a sideline to the United States Amateur. Amateur golf was preeminent and professionals were just the guys who built or repaired golf clubs.
It would be 40 years before the pendulum of great players would swing toward the professionals and the last amateur to win was John Goodman in 1933.
Television broadcast the tournament for the first time in 1954 and today all four rounds are shown. The first two rounds, Thursday and Friday, may be viewed on Golf Channel until NBC takes over in the afternoon. Today and Sunday’s rounds may be seen on NBC.
Candidly, many of the participants, although very skilled, are not among the elite and are long shots to win. Of the total 156 entrants, there are only a few dozen players who realistically have a chance for victory.
We know the names of those who have a history of success in majors. Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka are very recognizable.
Yet, there are a number of young guns who are fearless and ready to take the next leap in their careers.
Will Zalatoris: You may remember him from the Master’s Tournament. In his first two major starts, he has two top 10s and is now ranked No. 29 in the world.
Garrick Higgo: In his last five starts, he has four top 10s and three wins.
Victor Hovland: The Norwegian out of Oklahoma State (yes, you read that right) has 12 top 20s in his last 20 starts (including a win) and has played well at Torrey Pines.
I have no doubt these guys will make their mark on the game and have shown they have the talent and mindset to win. However, the U.S. Open can provide a type of pressure cooker.
Anyone who has a chance as they make the turn to the back-9 on Sunday will take a mental inventory and need to make sure they have control of their faculties.
Experience is a tremendous advantage, but do these guys have a shot to emerge victorious? Absolutely.
John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses
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