Angel Cabrera, Padraig Harrington and Trevor Immelman, three current Major Champions, will lead The European Tour’s finest into battle against the longest course in Major Championship history for the US Open Championship at Torrey Pines.
Cabrera, the defending champion, Harrington, The Open Champion, and Immelman, winner of the Masters Tournament in April, will line-up alongside 35 other European Tour Members on the South Course at Torrey Pines where they will face a staggering 7,643 yard test.
This beats the previous longest course for a Major Championship of 7,561 yards for the 2006 US PGA Championship at Medinah and the 7,264 yards for the US Open Championship at Winged Foot in 2006. Indeed, the par four sixth, at 515 yards, will be the longest par four in US Open Championship history.
Such a demanding challenge could suit the big hitting Cabrera, aiming to become only the seventh player to successfully defend the title following his unforgettable victory at Oakmont Country Club 12 months ago, where he held off the challenge of World Number One Tiger Woods and the rest of the world’s best.
Woods, as befitting his status as the World Number One, is understandably the bookmakers’ favourite as he looks to secure his 14th Major Championship title at a venue where he has won six Buick Invitational titles, including the last four in succession. How Woods fares with the physical demands of a US Open, however, remains to be seen having only recently recovered from knee surgery and not played competitively since the Masters Tournament when he finished second to Immelman at Augusta National.
Harrington and Immelman will both arrive in San Diego in confident mood having finished joint fourth and joint second respectively in last week’s Stanford St Jude Championship, and Immelman in particular will be relishing the visit to Torrey Pines having won the only previous USGA event to be played over the South Course – the 1998 US Amateur Public Links Championship.
Likewise Harrington, who will line up alongside Cabrera for the first two rounds in the traditional Open Champion and US Open Champion grouping, is in bullish mood. Since winning The Open Championship, Harrington has been focusing his preparations on further Major Championship successes, and the Irishman feels that his swing is in great shape to tackle the demands of Torrey Pines.
“I would suggest I have spent my last ten years trying to adapt my swing to play US Open golf,” said Harrington. “I’d say over the last two years, the US Open and the Masters have attracted my attention more than anything else.
“Every time I go to the practice ground, those are the two events I am probably thinking about – every time I hit the range, those types of courses are in my mind.”
Indeed, all 38 European Tour Members in the field will be looking to continue the run of success that has yielded four victories in the last seven years for The European Tour, with Retief Goosen winning twice, in 2001 and 2004, Michael Campbell winning in 2005 and Cabrera last year.
The first US Open to be played in southern California for 60 years will get off to a dramatic start when the two local California boys, namely Woods and Phil Mickelson tee-off in the company of Adam Scott in a draw pitching the top three in the world together. Indeed, in an unprecedented move, the USGA also grouped players ranked last week at World Number four, five and six together, along with seven, eight and nine and ten, 11 and 12.
Such a move grouped double US Open Champion Ernie Els alongside European Number One Justin Rose and 2006 US Open Champion Geoff Ogilvy for the first two rounds, while Sergio Garcia, who climbed to World Number Seven with his victory in The Players Championship and joint fourth finish last week, lines up with three-time Major Champion Vijay Singh and Stewart Cink.
Other eye catching draws will see BMW PGA Championship winner Miguel Angel Jiménez joining Boo Weekley of the USA and Japan’s Shingo Katayama for the first two rounds in what will surely be one of the Championship’s most entertaining three balls, while English fans will be able to follow the fortunes of three of their greatest hopes in the form of Donald, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter.
Eight European Tour Members will be making their debuts in the US Open, four of which – Englishmen Rob Dinwiddie, Ross Fisher and Ross McGowan and Scot Alastair Forsyth - came through the US Open Qualifier at Walton Heath.