Tom O’Toole and Mike Davis seemed overjoyed earlier today when it became official that the U.S. Open will return to Torrey Pines in 2021.
“It’s certainly an important strategic initiative of the USGA to be able to bring the U.S. Open back to a public facility,” O’Toole said after praising everyone from the City Council of San Diego to the volunteers who made the 2008 U.S. Open such a rousing success. “When you think about where we’ve been … after Bethpage in 2002, this has been a real focus by the organization.
“Between now and 2021, four times – of course this year at Pinehurst, next year at Chambers Bay, and 2017 at Erin Hills and of course back in Pebble Beach in 2019 ¬ we will conduct those (U.S. Open Championships) at publicly accessible facilities. I think that speaks volumes about where the USGA is and where our vision is looking forward. To be able to come back here and go to a municipally owned golf course and conduct the U.S. Open in Southern California again is a real treat for us.”
Both O’Toole and Davis talked about how the drama of the 2008 Open played a role in bringing the championship back to Torrey.
“You had Tiger Woods, who was the best player at the time, and then you had that side story about him playing on essentially a broken leg,” Davis said. “Then you’ve got somebody much older than him in Rocco Mediate who just plays a different game.
“I think when you look at the drama that was created back then and you look at how the course tested all parts of the game, yet it didn’t necessarily favor one type of game, those are absolutely things we look at.”
Of course there are plenty of other factors. You can almost predict the 2021 weather in San Diego today: 80 degrees, no rain, and fog – or the “June Gloom” as the natives call it – rolling through in the morning. There are plenty of accommodations nearby for volunteers and spectators, the infrastructure is as close to perfect as you can get, and having the Open in California gives the USGA a prime-time finish in the East.
What can’t be guaranteed is the kind of drama that occurred in 2008, an event O’Toole and Davis both acknowledged was one of the most compelling in U.S. Open history. Davis was asked if he could guarantee that a 45-year-old Tiger Woods would be granted an exemption if he didn’t otherwise qualify in 2021. That question brought a round of laughter and Davis said, “Thankfully, that’s up the championship committee.”
As for Woods, he said of the decision, “I was excited to hear that the U.S. Open was returning to Torrey Pines. I think it’s great, when the USGA can, to play the U.S. Open at a public course. The last time it was there, it was an amazing event. There was a huge turnout, it was really well run and the fans were excited and very supportive. It was a great atmosphere.
“I’ve been fortunate to have played well there and have great memories of the course. I was pretty young when I first went there with my dad during the old Andy Williams tournament. It was one of the few pro events I got to see. I wanted to watch some of the Southern California guys like Mark O’Meara and John Cook play.
“I think it’s a great decision returning to Torrey. It’s a very special place to me.”