The "June Gloom" so typical of summer in San Diego gave way to sunshine, filling the blue sky with fighter jets from Miramar that until Wednesday could only be heard in the fog. But that isn't the biggest buzz. Rarely has there been so much enthusiasm for the major that tends to border on boring, where birdies are rare, bogeys are inevitable and par has been good enough to win the past three years.
Five things to watch
1. Tiger vs. Phil There are 156 players in the field, but these two will get most of the air time, especially since they are in the same group for the first two days. Both are from Southern California and both have played hundreds of official and unofficial rounds on the Torrey Pines South Course. Woods has won six of 11 PGA events at Torrey Pines; Mickelson has won three of 19. Plus, there is a history of tension between the world's No. 1 (Woods, left) and No. 2 (Mickelson), so expect some drama.
2. Tiger's knee Woods had his left knee surgically repaired after the Masters in April and hasn't played a competitive round since. He has looked good during practice rounds, but now the real test begins. It kind of sounds like last week's story line with Triple Crown contender Big Brown. The cracked hoof is no big deal, we were assured. And we all know what happened to Big Brown in the Belmont Stakes.
3. Where's the Trevor Immelman talk?
The guy won the Masters, right? Tiger and Phil were in that field also. So he's just three steps away from the Grand Slam. He also won the 1998 U.S. Amateur Public Links championship at Torrey Pines. We know Immelman doesn't wilt under pressure, so if he is around on the weekend, he warrants watching.
4. Hometown heroesYes, Mickelson is from San Diego and it would be a great story line if he comes home and wins his first U.S. Open. But Pat Perez is also from San Diego and was a cart boy and range picker at Torrey Pines when he was 13. He went to Torrey Pines High School and has played the course hundreds of times.
5. Golf in prime time The final groups should be tapping in around 10 p.m. Eastern time today through Saturday. It will wrap up around 9 p.m. Sunday. It is a rare chance to get the game more exposure, and it wouldn't hurt if somebody like, say, a Woods or Mickelson were in the hunt on the weekend. The ratings could be an all-time high.
Torrey Pines held the Buick Invitational (won by Tiger Woods in a blowout) earlier this season. It is not the first course to host a regular PGA event and a major in the same year. Here is a look at other courses that have pulled double duty (listed in the order they were played with winner in parenthesis):
2000: PEBBLE BEACH GOLF LINKS
y-Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (Tiger Woods); U.S. Open (Woods)
1995: RIVIERA COUNTRY CLUB
Los Angeles Open (Corey Pavin); PGA Championship (Steve Elkington)
1992: PEBBLE BEACH GOLF LINKS
y-Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (Mark O'Meara); U.S. Open (Tom Kite)
1983: RIVIERA COUNTRY CLUB
Los Angeles Open (Gil Morgan); PGA Championship (Hal Sutton)
1982: PEBBLE BEACH GOLF LINKS
y-Bing Crosby National Pro-Am (Jim Simons); U.S. Open (Tom Watson)
1977: PEBBLE BEACH GOLF LINKS
y-Bing Crosby National Pro-Am (Watson); PGA Championship (Lanny Wadkins)
1975: FIRESTONE COUNTRY CLUB
PGA Championship (Jack Nicklaus); x-World Series of Golf (Watson)
1972: PEBBLE BEACH GOLF LINKS
y-Bing Crosby National Pro-Am (Nicklaus); U.S. Open (Nicklaus)
1966: FIRESTONE COUNTRY CLUB
PGA Championship (Al Geiberger); x-World Series of Golf (Gene Littler)
1948: RIVIERA COUNTRY CLUB
Los Angeles Open (Ben Hogan); U.S. Open (Hogan)
1936: PINEHURST NO. 2
North & South Open (Henry Picard); PGA Championship (Denny Shute)
x-Did not count as an official PGA Tour event. y-Only two rounds of the PGA Tour event were played at Pebble Beach.
Woody Austin (Chamberlain High School)
Tee time: Today: 8:06 a.m., Friday: 1:36 p.m.
Best 2008 finish: T4 at Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Best U.S. Open finish: T23 in 1996
Ryuji Imada (Tampa)
Tee time: Today: 8:50 a.m., Friday: 2:20 p.m.
Best 2008 finish: Won AT&T Classic
Best U.S. Open finish: T12 in 2006
Bob Tway is a former PGA Championship winner, but this week he'll be on the bag for his son. Kevin Tway, a 19-year-old freshman at Oklahoma State, got into the field via a 36-hole qualifier outside Columbus, Ohio. The elder Tway, 49, withdrew from the same qualifier to caddie for Kevin. "I'd rather be doing this than playing," Tway said. Tway is not the only family member on a bag this week. His brother Scott is caddying for Scott Verplank.
More like International Open
There has not been an American-born winner of the U.S. Open since Jim Furyk in 2003. Retief Goosen (South Africa) won in 2004, Michael Campbell (New Zealand) in 2005, Geoff Oglivy (Australia) in 2006 and Angel Cabrera (Argentina) last year. From 1928 to 2003 there were only six non-American winners of the U.S. Open. Of course, change in travel has been a big part of the reason. And many foreign players now live in the United States, at least on a part-time basis.
How's your Open knowledge?
1 Where was the first U.S. Open held?
a. Shinnecock Hills b. Newport Country Club
c. Chicago Golf Club
2 Who was the last player to win consecutive U.S. Opens?
a. Curtis Strange b. Arnold Palmer c. Ben Hogan
3 Who made the highest score on one hole at the U.S. Open
a. John Daly on No. 18 at Pebble Beach
b. John Daly on No. 8 at Pinehurst No. 2
c. Ray Ainsley on No. 16 at Cherry Hills
4 Name the last U.S. Open champion to come through local and sectional qualifying.
a. Ben Hogan b. Jack Fleck c. Orville Moody
5 Who is the last amateur to win the U.S. Open?
a. Bobby Jones b. Ken Venturi c. Johnny Goodman
6 Name the only player to complete the career Grand Slam at the U.S. Open.
a. Gary Player b. Gene Sarazen c. Ben Hogan
7 Which player has lost the U.S. Open in a playoff three times?
a. Greg Norman b. Arnold Palmer c. Sam Snead
8 Name the only player who shot all four rounds under par and did not win.
a. Mike Donald b. Tom Weiskopf c. Curtis Strange
9 Who was the last player to lead after each of the first three rounds without winning?
a. Payne Stewart b. Greg Norman c. Phil Mickelson
10 Name the only champion since World War II who has never broken par in any round of a U.S. Open.
a. Lou Graham b. Steve Jones c. Geoff Ogilvy
ANSWERS: 1. b, 2. a, 3. c, 4. c, 5. c, 6. a, 7. b, 8. c, 9. a, 10. c.