Adam Scott with an admirer this week – photo courtesy of USGA / Darren Carroll
Of the seven Australians to tee it up at this week’s US Open at Torrey Pines, two, Adam Scott and Marc Leishman, stand out as players more than capable of handling the demands of the South Course layout at the public facility outside of San Diego.
Adam Scott will play his 20th US Open, although it is only his second such event at this particular venue but what he can boast is an impressive but restricted record in PGA Tour events at the clifftop layout high above the Pacific Ocean.
Scott has played the tour event, the Farmers Insurance Open, on only two occasions, in 2019 and 2021 and, on both occasions, he has performed with distinction.
Scott finished runner-up to Justin Rose in 2019 and earlier this year finished a solid 10th place behind Patrick Reed. In five of his eight competitive rounds in those events, he has recorded rounds inside the 60’s and although the US Open will offer a significantly more demanding layout than that at the Farmers Insurance Open, he will no doubt enjoy the fact that he has enjoyed good form on the course.
Scott is the only one of the Australians in this week’s field to have played the historic 2008 US Open won by Tiger Woods who managed to play 90 holes that week on almost one leg to defeat Rocco Mediate in a playoff.
At that 2008 US Open, the only other occasion other than his two Farmers Insurance appearances that Scott has played at Torrey Pines, he finished 26th, a final round of 70 standing out on a week of carnage for so many.
Scott knows however that in order for him to better his previous best US Open finish of 4th behind Jordan Spieth at the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay, he will have to overcome a very difficult USGA set-up this week.
“Scoring is going to be tough,” said the 40 year old Queenslander on Wednesday. “I think it’s possible that you see, like often at a U.S. Open, a big dispersion in scores. I think there’s good scores out here, but you’ve got to be playing incredibly well tee to green.
“It is always advantageous playing from the short grass and hitting greens. I think more than most places we play on TOUR, somewhat like Riviera, if you’re greens in regulation you’re way in front of the game because it’s tricky around the greens and it’s tough putting, too. Easy pars at a U.S. Open sound good.
“I actually feel like coming off Memorial I did some nice work here in southern California on the game last week, so the confidence is up from where I finished at Memorial, which is a good thing. Obviously, the results have been few and far between, but I feel really good about where the ball-striking has kind of found itself, and that’s what’s been letting me down.
“I really don’t know how everyone else is feeling, but I certainly was disappointed at the PGA. I’ve worked hard the last month or so to kind of get myself in a place where I believe I can contend and win this major.
Leishman has a great record at Torrey Pines. He did not play the 2008 US Open as he was not at that stage a member of the PGA Tour but he did win the Farmers Insurance Open in 2020 and has been twice runner-up in other appearances there.
Like Scott, Leishman believes his game is in good shape ahead of this week’s examination.
“The game is feeling good,” said the Virginia Beach based Victorian.
“It’s a course I like. As far as U.S. Open courses, it’s as good as it’ll get for me. But it’s still going to be really tough. The confidence is good, but I’m never one to go into a U.S. Open overconfident by any means.”
Leishman is very much aware of the need for patience this week and is aware of the strategy needed for success at a US Open.
“On any U.S. Open I think it’s a case of hitting fairways. It always is. But probably even more important than that is leaving yourself in good positions around the greens, knowing where you can miss it, where you can’t miss it, putting.
“You’re going to have a lot of long par putts out here this week, and it’s going to be pretty important to hole a lot of them. Reading the greens is going to be important, but hitting your lines and just not getting ahead of yourself.
“Scoring will be tough. I think it’s going to be a firm U.S. Open, which is good. I don’t think they’re going to have to do too much to the course to make it really tough. It’s normally 10-ish under wins at the Farmers Insurance Open.
“The 6th hole is going to be a par-4, and then the greens are going to be running faster and be a lot firmer. So it’s going to be really, really difficult to hit greens even from the fairway. You’re going to have to hit good shots.
“Yeah, I think it’s going to be a typical U.S. Open, but it’s going to be sort of a U.S. Open/British Open hybrid sort of thing with how firm it’s going to be.”
When asked about the disappointing week for the Australians at the recent PGA Championship, Leishman was quick to remind the questioner of the disparity between the two courses.
“I mean, it was a very different golf course, different conditions. Yeah, I’m not worried about that one. You know, I think that’s probably the hardest major for Australians is the PGA, the way it’s normally set up. So yeah, definitely feel a little bit more optimistic about this week.”
Other than a very impressive week at the Masters however, Leishman’s form in recent months has been well below his best and he will need to rely on fond memories of a layout that clearly suits him to perform up to his potential.
Leishman is playing his 10th US Open but with four missed cuts and a best of 18th in his previous nine he needs sharp improvement if he is to continue his love affair with Torrey Pines.