LA JOLLA, Calif. — The 2021 US Open, which culminates with Sunday’s final round, is one for the people. The event is held at Torrey Pines Golf Course, a sprawling, 36-hole municipal track that only costs $78 to play on weekends for local residents and is a tourist attraction for golfers worldwide. Were it not for the pandemic, the USGA would have had upward of 35,000 fans per day walking the grounds.
In 2022, the US Open returns to a more intimate country club setting.
As in, The Country Club.
The historic club in Brookline is next on the tee for the 122nd US Open, marking the first time in 34 years that the Boston area will host a golf major. The event will be held June 13-19, and weeklong tickets went on sale Friday on the USGA website.
“This is going to be huge for just that vibe of getting a major sports event in our backyard,” said TCC general manager Kristen LaCount, who met with USGA officials this week at Torrey Pines. “It’s going to be the first one since the pandemic to be back to normal. So what an awesome thing for us to be able to host it.”
It will mark the 10th US Open in Massachusetts history, the fourth in TCC history, and the first golf major for the Boston area since the 1988 US Open, when Curtis Strange defeated Nick Faldo in a playoff at TCC.
The club is also the site of two of the most memorable events in golf history — the 1913 US Open won by Brookline amateur Francis Ouimet (lionized by the movie, “The Greatest Game Ever Played”), and the 1999 Ryder Cup, in which a rowdy US team pulled off an improbable Sunday comeback against the Europeans, capped by Justin Leonard’s remarkable 40-foot putt on No. 17.
“I am literally stopped at least once a week, and for a few years after that it seemed like once a day, where somebody tells me, ‘Yeah, I was there,’ ” said Leonard, now a golf commentator for NBC. “I have only been back one other time, to shoot a piece for the Ryder Cup. To be able to get back and cover a tournament there is obviously something I’m very excited about.”
The USGA also is thrilled to be bringing its national championship back to The Country Club, which in 1894 was one of five founding members of the USGA. Next year’s Open will mark the 17th USGA championship held at TCC, the last being the 2013 US Amateur won by Matthew Fitzpatrick.
“We use the term, ‘the cathedrals of the game,’ ” said Jeff Hall, the USGA’s managing director of rules and open championships. “It’s a founding club of the USGA, it’s got history, and we’re just delighted to be able to go back and continue that history.”
Eric Mills, the USGA’s championship manager of the 2022 US Open, has been on site at TCC since last October, and said the tournament already has 3,100 volunteers signed up, with 1,100 on a waiting list.
“We’re really feeling the local excitement. People want to be a part of it,” Mills said.
There’s also a chance a certain golfer could be back competing again next year, though no one can predict how he will do in his recovery from a traumatic leg injury.
“Everyone’s holding their breath — is Tiger [Woods] going to be back by next year?” LaCount said.
The 2022 championship will offer a rare glimpse behind the gates at TCC. Most fans won’t have seen the course in 23 years, and most of the golfers will be unfamiliar with it as well. Only a handful of participants from the ’99 Ryder Cup are still playing. Phil Mickelson said he has not been back to the course since then. Younger golfers such as Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele have not been back to the course since the 2013 Amateur.
“I remember playing it thinking it was one of my favorite courses I’ve played — just old school golf, all right in front of you, small greens,” said Thomas, who missed the cut in 2013. “It’s one of those places where you walk around the clubhouse and grounds and you get a grasp of everything and how special it is.”
Will Fulton, a TCC member and the general chairman of next year’s Open, said the club believed it was important to open its doors again. In the same light, The Country Club allowed its course to be included in a video game for the first time (as did Augusta National), EA Sports’ PGA Tour 2022, which was announced last week.
“It’s not a place the public comes every day, and I think that’s an important aspect,” Fulton said. “It’s inherent in our ethos that we give back to the game of golf, and this is a way to do that.”
If previous championships are any indication, next year’s Open could be a thrill. In addition to the wild 1999 Ryder Cup, all three previous US Opens at TCC finished in a playoff — Ouimet over Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in 1913, Julius Boros over Jacky Cupit and Arnold Palmer in 1963, and Strange over Faldo in 1988. The fact that none of the golfers will have much experience with the course should make the tournament wide open.
“The golf course has such a great history,” Mickelson said. “But what’s most impressive of the golf course is the architecture and how it’s withstood the test of time. I can’t wait to get back.”
As in past events, the Open will be played on TCC’s “composite course,” a mix-and-match of holes from the club’s main Clyde and Squirrel course and its nine-hole Primrose course. A new hole will be used for the first time in championship play — the 12th hole of the main course will become the 11th hole of the composite course, replacing the old fourth hole. It’s a tricky par-3, downhill measuring 131 yards and protected by four bunkers and thick fescue.
The par-70 course will play to 7,312 yards, more than 300 yards shorter than this year’s event at Torrey Pines. But TCC is a punishing test of golf known for narrow fairways, protruding boulders, postage stamp-sized greens, and of course, the USGA’s infamously thick rough.
A few of the par-4 greens may be drivable for the likes of Bryson DeChambeau or Brooks Koepka, but a miss will be punished severely.
“It was probably at the time — even now — one of the coolest courses I’ve ever played,” Schauffele said. “I remember the rough being extremely thick around the green. If you’re out of position off the tee, you can’t really run a ball up on a green. There’s a lot of really cool design features of the property.”
Course renovations began shortly after the 2013 US Amateur. Several greens have been expanded to its original size and allow for more pin placements (and more roll-offs). New tee boxes have been installed to lengthen the course. The sand traps have been revitalized, and new drainage was installed. And this summer, the rough is as thick as it will be for next summer’s championship.
The USGA will visit TCC over a couple of days next week for a dry run. Construction of tents and other facilities won’t take place until March, but the course is ready now for the US Open.
“The fact that the club hasn’t hosted a major in over 30 years, the excitement overarches anything else right now,” said LaCount. “The buzz is definitely starting to set in. It’s getting real.”
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.