2008 U.S. Open

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Risky Business

These five holes could decide who wins the U.S. Open championship.

By Eli MillerPublished: June, 2008

Par is a good score on any hole of a U.S. Open venue, but that doesn’t mean competitors will be shy about seizing opportunities to make birdies or eagles. These five holes on the South Course at Torrey Pines have risk-reward elements and should go a long way in determining who will be holding the U.S. Open trophy.

No. 3 – Par 3, 195 yards
One of the most scenic par 3s in the country will be listed at 195 yards for the U.S. Open, but it likely won’t play that long each day. USGA senior director of rules and competitions Mike Davis said the hole’s shorter tee box could be used at least once depending on weather and wind conditions. The shorter tee would create a shot of about 142 yards, giving the USGA an opportunity to put pin positions close to the canyon bordering the left side of the green.

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No. 4 – Par 4, 488 yards
Players got a taste of this hole’s repositioned fairway at the Buick Invitational this year. Whether the fourth is sweeter or more bitter during the U.S. Open depends on the wind and fairway firmness. Its length suggests most of the field will be hitting driver, but players fighting leaks to the left will take a shorter club to avoid flirtation with the canyon. A well-struck tee shot can roll quite a ways, leaving a middle to short iron to the green and a chance at birdie.

No. 13 – Par 5, 614 yards
Of all the South’s renovations leading up to the U.S. Open, arguably none has been more publicized than the new tee on the 13th hole. If the tee box is all the way back, most will play it as a three-shot hole; however, if the wind kicks up, the markers could move up since the back tee requires a 250-yard carry to reach the fairway. If the hole plays less than 600 yards, competitors will be able to go for the well-guarded green in two provided they drive the ball more than 300 yards.

No. 14 – Par 4, 435 yards
Facing a canyon on the left and a swath of deep rough on the right, most players will probably keep driver in the bag to find the narrow 14th fairway. But that’s where it gets interesting. The short approach demands accuracy, as any shot missing long or left will almost always end up lost. And, the USGA said this hole could be played as a short,
driveable par-4 at least once.

No. 18 – Par 5, 573 yards
There was a question whether the 18th would remain a par 5 for the U.S. Open or be converted to a lengthy par 4. The championship committee opted to let the hole be, meaning it will offer the best example of risk-reward at Torrey Pines. A solid drive comes with a decision: lay up and try to set up a birdie with a wedge, or try for eagle by muscling the ball over Devlin’s Billabong, which will loom larger than usual since the grass on the hill between the water and the green will be shaved flatter than it is for the Buick.