Tag Archives: Rocco Mediate

SD Tourism: The U.S. Open Returns To Torrey Pines in 2021

USGA Names Torrey Pines Golf Course As 2021 U.S. Open Championship SiteTP3

Left: San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and USGA Vice President Dan Burton at the March press event to announce the Open’s return to Torrey. Photo courtesy of the USGA.

Editor’s Note: The following is the first post of an occasional series I’m doing for the San Diego Tourism Authority to promote golf in San Diego. You can also find this post at http://www.sandiego.org/articles/golf/us-open-2021-torrey-pines.aspx

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An iconic champion at the height of his game. A saavy veteran challenger having the week of his life. A major championship golf event, the first in San Diego, played at recently renovated Torrey Pines.

A clutch putt. An 18-hole Monday playoff. A victory for the ages to add to the sports record chase of our lifetimes, secured on what we’d find out later was a broken leg, only enhancing the legacy of perhaps Tiger Woods’ greatest major championship performance.

Yes, the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines had it all. And now it will have a sequel. The United States Golf Association awarded Torrey Pines its long-awaited second U.S. Open, slated for 2021.

We’ll continue to update this information as it becomes available but for now is just a future reminder of the return of one of the PGA Tour’s four major championships to the sunny shores of San Diego.

Total attendance for the 2008 Open was 295,000. The 2021 event should see similar attendance so plan your trip to the Open early.

“Just as San Diego served as home to one of the greatest championships in golf history in 2008, we’re confident that we will once again provide and exciting and dynamic venue for 2021,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer said at the press event to announce the tournament’s return.

Woods will be 45 when the U.S. Open returns to Torrey. His win in 2008 turned Torrey Pines into hallowed ground for golfers. Thousands now annually make the trek to San Diego to play the South Course and experience the mystique of walking in the footsteps of greatness.

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Torrey Pines Head Pro Joe DeBock says the boost the 2008 Open gave the course’s legacy and reputation can’t be overstated.

“You can actually play the course where they played the U.S. Open,” DeBock says. “Torrey Pines became very popular just for that fact. The course brings back those memories in a way that just going back to a stadium doesn’t.

“And it was one of the greatest championships ever.”

City officials used words like “passion,” “excitement” and “electricity” to describe the atmosphere they’re hoping to recapture in 2021. That’s a tall order but certainly fun to think about not only for San Diego golfers, but golf fans worldwide.

As is standard for Opens, the course will be closed during the tournament and the week of preparation prior. Fortunately for visiting golfers who want to squeeze in a few rounds during those two weeks, San Diego has abundant options, with nearly 90 courses in the county.

Golfers staying downtown are likely to gravitate to Riverwalk and its 27 holes, harbor-side Coronado Golf Course on Coronado Island, or Balboa Park Golf Course, one of Torrey Pines’ sister San Diego public courses.

Those willing to drive a little can discover Maderas Golf Club in Poway, one of the country’s two courses rated top 100 by Golf Digest, or Barona Creek in Lakeside, another course consistently rated among California’s best as is the Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad.

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Until 2021, we have the annual Farmers Insurance Open to look forward to and Phil Mickelson’s renovation of the North Course at Torrey Pines in 2015. Yes, golfers have it good in San Diego.


The Aura of ’08 Still Shines Brightly at Torrey Pines

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USGA and local officials celebrate the 2021 agreement

In a way, it’s still very much 2008 every day at Torrey Pines.

The mystique of the epic ’08 Open, site of Tiger Woods’ dramatic sudden-death victory over Rocco Mediate, now draws golfers from around the globe to tee it up on the South Course and walk what has become hallowed golf ground.

Merchandise with the ’08 Open logo still sells, stories of that week are repeatedly, and happily, retold and golfers mostly ask, “Hey, when’s that going to happen again?”

Now we know.

Torrey was granted its long awaited and much anticipated encore Tuesday when it was officially revealed “America’s Championship” would return to Torrey in 2021. City and USGA officials jointly announced and celebrated the agreement, passing out 2021 hats and having photos taken with a replica of the U.S. Open trophy.

The sentiment of recapturing the magic of ’08 was expressed by everyone, including the new mayor, using words such as “electricity,” “passion” and “excitement” in what they hoped to recreate in 2021. They’ll will be hard pressed to match the original, but we’ve now got seven years to ponder about how it could be topped.

After the announcement, I asked a few of the Torrey Pines staff members why it is that the 08 Open captured people’s imaginations in a way that few sporting events, not just in golf, rarely do. Think about it: Are people still talking about the 08 Super Bowl? The World Series? The Final Four? No.

Heck, people aren’t still talking about those things from a year ago.

Aside from the Hollywood-level drama, what’s different is part of what makes golf different.

“You can actually play the course where they played the U.S. Open,” says Torrey Pines Head Pro Joe DeBock. “Torrey Pines became very popular just for that fact. The course brings back those memories in a way that just going back to a stadium doesn’t.

“And it was one of the greatest championships ever.”

For comparison, you can try to recreate Christian Laettner’s iconic NCAA Tournament shot, but you can’t do it at the free-throw line of The Spectrum in Philadelphia.

However, you can walk to the 18th green at Torrey and recreate the 12-foot birdie putt Tiger drained to force the championship into an extra day.

And DeBock has. Many, many times now.

“I’ve recreated that putt so many times,” he says. “I originally did it for the media, but people still ask about it all the time.

“It’s a hard putt. If you get it too left, it stays left. It you get it too high, it stays high. It’s a tough putt to recreate.”

But it’s all part of the daily Open conversation at  Torrey.

“I talk about the U.S. Open in every lesson I give, and every tournament we have causes people to reminisce about it. It’s always a hot topic around here and will be even more so now.”

Possibly the only thing DeBock gets asked about more than the 08 Open is when there’d be another one at Torrey. DeBock said he’d been harboring a hunch for a while that it’d be back in 2021.

“When they announced Winged Foot (in New York) for 2020, I started to feel good about us getting it back in 2021,” he said. “When you look at the East/West geography balance, it made real good sense. And enough time had gone by.”

For those that don’t know, by the way, the 2019 Open is at Pebble Beach.

They opened the press event on Tuesday with a video montage of the 2008 Open and seconds later, Tiger was emphatically fist-pumping all over again.

“I still get chills watching that,” confided USGA Vice President Dan Burton. “And I know Rocco does, too.”

In a way the legacy and stature of 2008 has only grown since Tiger’s last putt fell, largely because that’s where his major march toward Jack’s record came to a historical hault.

For what will be six years now when Tiger tees it up at The Masters, Torrey has been the point of reference for his last major title in what still ranks as the most compelling storyline in sports.

Tiger will be 45 when June 2021 rolls around. Where his major odometer will be by then is anybody’s guess, but if he’s still in need of another to break the record, you’ve got to believe this will be coming too late in the game.

But that type of speculation led to a fun thought from Paul Cushing, the City of San Diego’s maintenance manager for golf operations.

“Who knows where the 2021 U.S. Open champion is right now?” he said. “He could be in high school. He could be in another country.

“It’s fun to think about it.”

It is. And we’ve got seven more years to do it. Let the game begin.

ImageFor $36, pin flags from the 2008 U.S. Open still sell