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Teeing Off

This week in golf

June 12, 2008|Thomas Bonk and Thomas Bonk Times Staff Writer | Times Staff Writer

Five things to look for on the professional golf scene:

1. LA JOLLA -- He looked perfectly at home getting his practice work done on the putting green at Torrey Pines, and for Jim Furyk, that's a good place to start.

It has been five years since Furyk won the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields, his only victory in a major, but he has had his chances.

Last year at Oakmont, Furyk tied for second with Tiger Woods. The year before that, at Winged Foot, he tied for second with Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie.

Both times, Furyk was one shot out of a playoff.

This is his 13th U.S. Open, and the only one in which Furyk was under par was the one he won. It's not clear whether that means he's due or he's not going to challenge.

Furyk said he hasn't played up to his capabilities so far this year.

"I'm a little frustrated. I think that I haven't played poorly this year, but I haven't played well by any means," he said. "I've struggled a little bit with the driver, which has been a strength of mine throughout the last five to eight years."

Furyk said he has also had problems putting, but he thinks he's straightened out both those woes.

He just hopes he can handle the length of Torrey Pines.

"I would say there is no way to disguise 7,600 yards," he said.

Last year, Furyk ranked 171st in driving distance. He's about the same this year, averaging 275.6 yards, or close to 37 yards less than driving distance leader Bubba Watson.

2. A man of few words, Woods was asked why his U.S. Open victory total remains at two, lagging behind his success rate in the other three majors.

Said Woods: "Less wins."

3. Phil Mickelson raised some eyebrows when he said that the new teeing area at the par-five 13th is a terrible idea and a big waste of money. He was referring to the tee that makes the hole 614 yards and requires a drive of about 255 yards over a canyon to reach the fairway.

USGA vice president Jim Hyler wasn't in the mood to hear that.

"Well, we certainly have a lot of respect for Phil's comments. However, on this one, I think we'll agree to disagree.

"We like it back there . . . and so we like the hole where it is."

4. This is the first U.S. Open in Southern California in 60 years, since 1948 at Riviera, which means there are going to be some critical eyes trained on how the week goes.

For the USGA, playing the Open on a public course has been a celebrated cause since it started traveling down that path, at Bethpage Black in 2002.

No one is saying it out loud, but with future U.S. Open sites already awarded through 2015, there's a feeling that Torrey Pines might be a one-and-out deal. Hyler didn't exactly give Torrey a ringing endorsement when asked about a return engagement.

"If the invitation comes for a return visit here, we'll consider that in due course. Our focus right now is on this championship and giving the players a very hard but fair course."

5. Masters champion Trevor Immelman has already won at Torrey Pines. It's where he won the 1998 U.S. Amateur Public Links.

If that's some kind of advantage, Immelman isn't buying it.

"The course has changed so much, and it was 10 years ago," he said.

But Immelman is certain of one thing: Long hitters have the advantage this week.

"There's no doubt about it," he said. "It's going to be damp and cold. The ball doesn't go very far, so I think a power hitter is going to prevail around here."

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A SLICE OF LIFE

Jim Furyk, on tackling 7,643-yard Torrey Pines and being categorized as a 'medium-sized' hitter:

'I appreciate you putting me in that medium category, thanks. It's an upgrade from usual, so I like that.'

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STAT OF THE WEEK

When they play the forward tee at the par-four 14th hole at 277 yards this weekend at the U.S. Open, it's going to be 11 yards shorter than the par-three eighth at last year's Open at Oakmont, won by Angel Cabrera, above.

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THE TOURNAMENT

U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION

U.S. Open

When: Today-Sunday.

Where: Torrey Pines, South Course (7,643 yards, par 71), San Diego.

TV: ESPN (Today-Friday, 10 a.m.-noon, 2-7 p.m.; Monday, if playoff necessary, 9-11 a.m.) and Ch. 4 (Today-Friday, noon-2 p.m.; Saturday, 1-7 p.m.; Sunday, noon-6 p.m.; Monday, if necessary, 11 a.m. to end.

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thomas.bonk@latimes.com

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