Coach Peter Cowen with Rory McIlroy
Coach Peter Cowen with Rory McIlroy Image Credit: AFP

Here I am at Torrey Pines in San Diego as the players gear up of the US Open during practice. It is an 11-hour time difference with the UAE so it is tough to connect with my friends this week but my head is already busy with my players and their preparations. This is already the third major of the year. Where has the year gone?

The Torrey Pines course has been set-up well by the USGA and is a fair and proper test. Given the tough times we have been through, all the players seem happy, which is not always the case a couple of days before a US Open.

The rough is up but arguably a little patchy in places so a ball can be a foot into the rough and virtually unplayable or 10 yards wide of the fairway and the player has a ‘teed up’ lie.

The weather forecast is set fair for the week with temperatures in the high 70s with a modest breeze. Not too bad compared with the heat back home in the UAE.

Torrey Pines is a classic course. The fairways are traditionally narrow as in all US Opens and we will see some chipping out sideways from the rough. But the greens are good and that is always important.

Crowds will be limited to 10,000 a day but at least we will be ensured a proper tournament buzz around the place.

This is one of my most hectic weeks of the year. I have eight ‘runners’ in this year’s race and all eight look in decent shape and ready for this week’s challenge.

I spent Friday and Saturday at the Bear’s Club with Rory McIlroy. I then flew five hours on Sunday night to the West Coast with a three-hour time difference — jam-packed plane, masks on (of course) and I didn’t know what time it was.

Brooks Koepka

Looking at the field going into the competition at Torrey Pines, if anyone beats Brooks Koepka this week they will be a major champion come Sunday night — he is the one to beat. Brooks played a practice round with Dubai resident Rafa Cabrera Bello this week. The Spaniard has also just had a very important week for his season, having gone through qualifying and shooting a lovely 64 in the process.

Gary Woodland, Henrik Stenson and DP World Ambassador Ian Poulter are all seemingly confident with no real weaknesses in any areas of their games.

Branden Grace looks to continue his strong form, but, as with all players, when they win and keep playing they soon get tired. I am worried that Branden looks and feels tired.

Matt Fitzpatrick and Victor Perez make up my eight players this week and Victor needs a couple of strong tournament weeks to secure his Ryder Cup place in the European Team.

It is interesting to see the likes of Danny Willett, Graeme McDowell, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler not getting in the field as exemptions have run their time or their rankings have slipped.

I will return home to Rotherham on Sunday night a tired man I am sure and I am not sure where I will go next with all the new restrictions back in force in the UK. It has just been announced that California is open for business as long as you have had the COVID-19 vaccine.

Fingers crossed we are for an exciting and safe week here in the US.