Today I'm at TaylorMade and adidas headquarters just up the road in Carlsbad to look at their latest adidas footwear and apparel, some of which will be worn by the players this week. Carlsbad is at the heart of the golf industry with the likes of Aldila, Callaway, Cobra, Fujikura, Grafalloy, Lamkin, Mitsubishi Rayon, Odyssey, Scotty Cameron, Titleist joining TaylorMade-Adidas to make their home in this great town just up the Pacific Coast Highway from Torrey Pines. In fact TaylorMade and Callaway's massive offices and factory are so close to each other, its amazing how they manage to keep their club designs and plans secret from each other. Apparently, workers have to always be on their guard when going out for dinner and not let anyone overhear conversations in case word gets back to an arch rival! I was at the TaylorMade design and production plant yesterday and although I had a fascinating tour of the facilities, much was kept under wraps, especially the club designs and prototypes for clubs which might be released over the next two to four years. I saw how the new Tour Burner driver was first designed and prototypes then created using state of the art computer engineering and milling. I also had the privelege of meeting TaylorMade's top equipment guy, Benoit Vincent who chatted to me about the latest Tour Burner range and their brand new Fairways and Hybrids. You'll be able to check this out on our website next week!
What's clear from visiting their offices is just how important their staff players are to the business and how much pride they take from their performances. Sergio Garcia is definitely a favourite son with his face on posters all over the buildings and they'll be willing him on to success this week. With a solid 4th place finish last Sunday and a growing confidence on the greens, he's definitely got a big chance of ending his wait for a major.
Welcome to Torrey Pines in sunny California, the home of the 2008 US Open! While Jock Howard will be giving you the tournament low down on his Golf World blog, I’ll be reporting direct from the course to bring you gear related stories and sharing behind the scenes news.
This is my first time at a US Open and to say I’m excited about the week ahead would be like saying that Tiger Woods is a decent knocker! I’ve been lucky enough to attend some great Open Championships including Tiger’s stunning St. Andrews victories in 2000 and 2005 but I’m really up for this one. I think it could be something special.
Why? Well to start with, the Pacific coast setting is spectacular, in my view second only to Pebble Beach in terms of location and scenery. I absolutely love this part of the world and to return here to cover such a massive tournament is a real thrill.
But what really gets the juices flowing is the form guide and the storylines going into this 108th US Open. Tiger is returning to one of his favourite courses with a string of impressive victories around Torrey Pines to his name. In fact, only a few months ago, following a huge eight-shot win in the Buick Invitational, everyone was saying that he was nailed on for victory here (along with the grand slam!)
However, things have changed…not least the small fact that he’s been out of action since The Masters following a new bout of knee surgery. In fact, Tiger only played his first round of golf last week since going under the knife, which has thrown victory into some doubt, especially with some very strong contenders dying to add a US Open to their resume.
Phil Mickelson is the local hero and lives only a few miles away from the course in exclusive Rancho Sante Fe. He knows Torrey Pines better than anybody else in the field, having competed around there since his amateur and junior days. In fact, Mickelson and Woods have won a staggering eight of the last 10 Buick Invitationals staged here. It remains to be seen how Major status and a US Open set-up in summer conditions affects their comfort levels and proven ability to dominate the competition and course.
Despite all the hype, it isn't just the Tiger and Phil show, Sergio Garcia is in great form, has an excellent US Open record and will be chomping at the bit to take it to another level, inspired by the confidence from a potentially career changing Player’s Championship win a few weeks ago.
When you chuck the likes of Adam Scott, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and a raft of European hopefuls (and doubtfuls!) into the mix, its bound to be another major week of intense effort, concentration and struggle around another brutal USGA course set-up. Believe me, this course is LONG and expect another high winning score and some big numbers from some big players. If anything under-par wins this tournament, I'll be amazed. Maybe Tiger will do it, maybe Phil will thrill his fans and finally add a US Open to his CV or maybe another unexpected winner like Michael Campbell, Geoff Ogilvy and Angel Cabrera will surprise us yet again.
I can’t wait for the action to start and come Thursday at 4.06 pm when the world’s top three will tee-off together, I’ll be there to soak it all up with the massive galleries and give you a flavour of what its like to be up close and personal with these modern legends in the heat of competition. Let the battle begin!
Last night I was lucky enough to be invited to a US Open party hosted by TaylorMade. Their annual bash is something very special with fantastic entertainment, music and celebrity appearances at a secret venue only revealed at the last minute! This year's party was held at a dream private home (apparently worth $70 million!) with over 500 golf industry and media people soaking up the atmosphere and sipping cocktails alongside players such as Retief Goosen, Sergio Garcia, Mike Weir and Justin Rose. All the players chatted about the challenges of Torrey Pines and their preparation and practice going into the US Open. With such an important and demanding week ahead, I can report that all the players were very well behaved, didn't drink a lot and left at a sensible time. I, on the other hand can't claim any of the above and am paying the price! Its no accident that these guys are so good and looking after themselves and their talent is a big reason they're golfing superstars. I'm sure they all let their hair down in weeks off but the eve of a major isn't the best time to down giant Pina Coladas, strip off and jump in swimming pools. Unless you're John Daly.