Be sure and save the final-round leaderboard from this week's PGA Tour event, the Buick Invitational, if you want an early peek at probable contenders at the 2008 U.S. Open. The Buick field is strong, with both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson making their season debuts in San Diego.
More important, this week's event will be played at Torrey Pines Golf Course. Buick contestants will play 54 holes on the South course and 18 on the North. When golfers return to Torrey Pines in June to play the U.S. Open (June 12-15), all 72 holes will be played on the South course.
The bottom line: Players who do well this week at the Buick Invitational should have the best chance of lighting up the same course when the USGA sets up Torrey Pines for the U.S. Open. With the exception of deeper rough, the course probably will not be that different in June because of its length.
The South course already will play as a 7,568-yard, par-72 layout for PGA Tour participants this week. With that much real estate already in play, it's unlikely there will be much tweaking of the dimensions (read: lengthening holes) when USGA officials begin setting up the layout for their purposes after the final putt drops Sunday.
Also remember this: The last time the USGA brought the U.S. Open to the venue of an annual PGA Tour stop was in 2000, when the Open visited Pebble Beach Golf Links, home course of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. That season, Tiger Woods won both events.
_ Jimmy Burch