John Renslow: Best golfers in the world to tee off at Torrey Pines |

John Renslow: Best golfers in the world to tee off at Torrey Pines

Competition is central to games and sports. Of course, one can enjoy sports without competing and there are a host of benefits from playing that do not require a victory lap. The rewards are many; exercise, fresh air, beautiful surroundings and time well spent with friends.

However, if you are interested in becoming a better player, how do you know what “better” is? How does one measure up against other players? For some, the goal is to be the best. For others, it is simply a joy to watch the top players compete at the highest level.

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. In fact, 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 our National Championship. It is available (or open) to virtually any skilled player who would like to qualify. Certain events are by invitation only, but this one is open to the public. Hosts of aspiring professionals and many of the countries 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, 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 broadcasted the tournament for the first time in 1954 and today all four rounds are shown. The first two rounds, today and Friday, may be viewed on ESPN. Saturday and Sunday’s rounds may be seen on NBC.

Candidly, many of the participants, although very skilled, are not the world’s best and are long shots to win. There are only a few dozen players who realistically have chance for victory. Let’s take a look at several contestants, true contenders, who are the players to watch.

Without question, our first pick would be Tiger Woods. He’s the best player on the planet, performs well in major tournaments (every tournament, for that matter) and has won the last four tournaments played at Torrey Pines. One hesitation would be a surgically repaired knee that has not scene active duty in a couple of months. But, the last time his orthopedist did some work on a knee, Tiger won the first event after rehab and went on to win three out of his first four.

Phil Mickelson – He grew up in Southern California and is very familiar with the golf course. Earlier in the year he finished 6th at the Buick Invitational Tournament which is played at the same location. He needs to get a win and erase the memory of a lead that was lost on the final hole of the 2006 U.S. Open.

Justin Leonard – Some may not view him as favorably, but Justin has played great all year (third on the money list behind Tiger and Phil), is peaking at the right time (he won last week’s Tour event), finished 5th at the Buick, and performs well under major tournament pressure.

Trevor Immelman – Trevor won the year’s first major tournament at Augusta and his Pub Links championship as an Amateur took place at Torrey Pines.

Are there some young guns that have a shot to emerge victorious? Absolutely.

Bubba Watson – A fifth place finish at last year’s Open and a good tournament at the Buick make him good bet.

Boo Weekley – Top 10 on the Money List, Top 30 in last year’s Open, and a Top 20 in this year’s Buick. If I was a betting man (okay, on occasion), I would like the odds.

Sergio Garcia – Ranked #7 in the world, recently won next best thing to a major (the Player’s Championship), and seems like he might be a fit with sunny San Diego.

What about the foreign players? Do they have a chance? You betcha. In fact, although they don’t play the U.S. Tour full time, there are a few who tend to rise to the top of major tournament leader boards.

Angel Cabrera – Last year’s U.S. Open winner and a Top 25 at the Masters.

Padraig Harrington – Last year’s British Open winner and a Top 5 at the Masters.

Miguel Jimenez – He sits atop the European Order of Merit and is very familiar with major championship golf, including a Top 10 finish at the Masters.

Do others have a chance? Certainly, and at this time, we aren’t able to discuss all of the possibilities. But this is a good start, because all of these men have a great opportunity for a win. So, enjoy a super week of golf and have a wonderful Father’s Day. You might even share the day together on the course, then head back to watch your country’s national championship!

John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at

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