The Greatest by the Greatest
Continued (page 2 of 2)
The ocean-bordered southern part of California has always been a place of Hollywood make-believe, casual opulence, suntans and jewelry. And, as S.J. Perelman once said, it's the state that gave us the shirt worn outside the pants. So it was about time the Open came to that area of sprawling San Diego where the people of La Jolla and the people of Rancho Santa Fe have a notion that the citizens who earn less than $500,000 a year probably qualify for food stamps.
The big surprise was that Torrey Pines presented such a stern challenge for this Open. With too many pros calling it "very fair," it was expected that the layout would get sliced up like barbecue brisket. That it didn't is something of a tribute to Mike Davis, who took over as the USGA's course preparer two years ago. He's the guy who took the players back to five-over-par 285 at Winged Foot and Oakmont. He's also the guy who knew the gnarly Kikuyu grass bordering Torrey's fairways; the uneven, Poa-infested green speed; and his mixing up of tee boxes would take their tolls even though the course didn't play at its advertised length of 7,643 yards. That's how Davis held the total at one-under-par 283 before the playoff.
All that aside, the USGA figures Torrey Pines is a keeper for future Opens. The organization took enough money out of the week -- start the estimates at $50 million -- that might allow one entire USGA officer's family to live in a home in Rancho Santa Fe, depending on the upkeep and the size of the garage.
In this environment, the USGA knew how to entertain the 400 million spectators. It offered the pairing in the first two rounds of Tiger with the Magnificent Magician, Phil Mickelson (the deep thinker who was going with no driver and five wedges), and Australia's young and single Adam Scott.
The most fascinating incident on Friday had nothing to do with Tiger's game, although it did involve his threesome. Tony Navarro, Scott's caddie, got into it with an unruly fan at the ninth tee. The caddie suggested they meet at the bottom of the hill. They did, and observers declared Navarro the winner on points. The 7-year-old son of the unruly fan was in the gallery, as was the unruly fan's father, who was also apprehended. In the end, it struck those of us who appreciate dark humor that the kid, seeing his dad and granddad being led away, would in future years have a fond remembrance of an incident that occurred within 48 hours of Father's Day 2008.
There's no doubt that Saturday was the most surreal and exciting day of a U.S. Open since the Open used to end on Saturdays. Tiger made two eagles and holed out for a birdie from greenside rough, all in the last six holes. This after finishing with a 30 in his final nine on Friday.
The funniest thing was how Mickelson ended his chances on the par-5 13th hole on Saturday. That day he put the driver back in his bag and removed one wedge. Could have been the one he needed to pitch the ball onto the green in less than four tries on his way to a 9.
That begged the question of whether Phil's brain needs more rehabilitating than Tiger's knee.