The last time a U.S. Open was contested over the South Course at Torrey Pines, Tiger Woods dominated the headlines by overcoming leg fractures to capture his third U.S. Open title. What could Patrick Rodgers, who opened the 121st U.S. Open on Thursday with a 1-under-par 70, possibly have in common with the 15-time major champion?
Actually, quite a bit. Like Woods, Rodgers played at Stanford University, and he matched Tiger’s school-record 11 individual tournament victories (since equaled by Maverick McNealy as well). Rodgers also played on two USA Walker Cup Teams and was a three-time All-American for the Cardinal, but his professional career never gained a trajectory approaching Woods’. In fact, Thursday’s tour around Torrey was just his 11th round in a major since turning professional in 2014, with his two previous U.S. Opens starts coming in 2016 at Oakmont (T46) and 2018 at Shinnecock Hills (T41). Could this week prove a throwback to his dominant college days?
“It’s kind of a dream start in a U.S. Open,” said Rodgers, 28, the medalist in the June 7 final qualifier at The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Fla. “I drove it great, put the ball in positions to score and felt very comfortable over the putter. If I bring the kind of game that I brought today the next three days, I should have a great chance.”
Rodgers thinks that he has the proper mindset to succeed this week.
“It’s probably the most difficult championship that we play, but I love that challenge,” said the sixth-year PGA Tour pro from Avon, Ind., who is still seeking his first Tour win. “It takes a massive dose of patience, and my patience I would say has gotten better this year. I have a 5-month-old, and that’s a nice dose of daily patience, seeing things through a different lens.”
Rodgers has a tie for fourth and a tie for ninth sprinkled among several missed cuts in the Farmers Insurance Open, which is played over the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines in late January.
“The weeks I’ve struggled I’ve played poorly on the North Course; I’ve always played well on the South Course,” said Rodgers. “It’s very demanding, but it requires a similar skill set throughout the round. I feel like it’s a place that suits my game.”