Tag Archives: Torrey Pines

My Favorite Public Golf Hole in So. Cal: No. 5 at Journey at Pechanga

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If it’s possible to have love at first sight with a golf hole – and as  golfers, we all know that it is – I had it with No. 5 at Journey at Pechanga a year ago.

If you’ve played Journey, you know No. 5 is where the course starts to become something special.

I played it for the first time around this time a year ago, and I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I saw No. 5 for the first time.

You can’t clearly see the hole until you make the left turn on the cart path, and when you do, you discover a sight that just has to leave you in awe a little bit.

The hole is a par-4 played to a majestic mountain backdrop. The fairway is bisected by a rocky stream that drains into a lake that provides a drive-swallowing water hazard for many and divides a split fairway. At the hole, the stream, bubbling from a waterfall behind the green, wraps around the green to provide a serene setting for your putt – hopefully a birdie, but if it’s your first time, probably not.

I love this hole because it’s the perfect combination of beauty, strategy and serenity. And it epitomizes the playing experience at Journey. You can make it as tough as you want to, but the course ultimately rewards the smart play. Most holes there give you a variety of shot options, but possibly none more than No. 5.

Especially played from the white tees (298 yards), you can certainly go for the green and for the Holy Grail of an eagle. Moving back to the blacks (331 yards) makes this a less realistic play, but certainly not impossible for today’s longer hitters.

Two things to know if you’re seeking to do this: 1) make you miss right; 2) book an early tee time, but you’re probably not make this play after noon when a severe headwind is known to kick up.

In that regard, I have to play this hole with its true teeth in. Instead, I’ve been greeted by a still lake and a green light at the green. I found water the first time I tried, before deferring to safe 7-iron played out left for a short-iron approach.

This time, I pulled my SLDR Mini-Driver and found the fairway on the right despite aiming for the left (a lucky miss, to be sure). That 270-yard drive left me a simple pitch in, which I converted for a two-putt par.

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The approach from the right fairway

Under still conditions, driver/3-wood is the only way to reach the right fairway, but the left presents nearly every option in the bag, which is why I love this hole. Players of every ability level have available avenue to play this hole and succeed.

And the setting and design of the hole becomes more unique with every round I play in California. I’ve yet to play another hole like it.

I played Journey on Thursday last week and Torrey South on Friday (yes, I have a hard life). The answer I’m probably supposed to have in this space is No. 3 at Torrey, the iconic ocean-view par-3 played into the vista of La Jolla.

No. 3 at Torrey is undoubtedly the signature hole for all of Southern California and without question an incredible design and always fun to play. But it’s a par-3. There’s really only one way to play it, and the hole is short and not terribly difficult.

No. 5 at Journey is beautiful in its own right, but presents a much wider array of challenges and options.

What’s funny is that most people will read this and probably say No. 5 isn’t even their favorite hole at Journey, much less all of So. Cal. Journey has three holes played at serious elevation, mostly notably No. 6, the bomber’s delight with a view of all of downtown Temecula and beyond.

A great hole and a unique experience, to be sure, but there are only so many ways to play it. Save for the par-3 17th and the par-4 18th. Together, it’s hard to beat the finish at Journey.

But if I can only play one hole, for my money it’s No. 5. I’ve pondered a series of posts about my Dream 18 in So. Cal. I’ve not pondered the entire list yet, though it’s an exercise I look forward to, but you now know where the journey would begin – No. 5 at Journey.

 

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Behind the green

 

Friday Photo Post: Torrey Tournament-Ready and Hosting A Phenom

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      Just a quick photo today of Torrey Pines in tournament condition. Starting tomorrow, Torrey will host the Junior World Golf Championships. In the field is Tianlang Guan, who golf fans will recall was the youngest player ever to compete at the Masters two years ago at age 14. He’s still riding the celebrity of those two rounds as evidenced by the many photo opp. requests he received while playing his practice round today. And he graciously granted every one.

      The young man still seems to enjoy the spotlight and not be burned out by the attention. He happily complied with an interview request, the results of which you’ll see here at a later date.

       He also received his share of well wishes for the tournament and his future. The blog can second that. Look for his name in the local headlines in the coming weeks.

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JC Golf: Drive, Chip and Putt at Encinitas Ranch Q & A

 

 

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   A year ago, the PGA instituted its answer to the NFL’s long-standing “Punt, Pass and Kick” youth skills competition with “Drive, Chip & Putt.”

          The competition culminated in the finals being held at Augusta National the week of the Masters, which got the attention of youth golfers everywhere – and their parents.

          Seeing the finalists on television at the Masters, including 11-year-old Lucy Li, who played in last week’s LPGA U.S. Open, has already sparked a rise in this year’s turnout. To handle the anticipated increase, the Southern California PGA has expanded the number of Southern California local qualifiers from 10 to 14, including one for the first time at Encinitas Ranch on July 7th.

          Finalists in the four age divisions for boys and girls at Encinitas Ranch will advance to a sub-regional on Aug. 18th at La Costa Resort and Spa and then on to Torrey Pines on Sept. 13th to compete for the trip to Augusta.

          Matt Gilson, Player Development Manager at the Southern California PGA, took a few minutes recently to answer some questions about this year’s competition.

Q. Southern California had two winners at last year’s inaugural competition at Augusta. What was their experience like?

A. Everybody had a blast. They got to meet (past champion) Adam Scott and (current champion) Bubba Watson. Going to the Master is every golfer’s dream come true. And they got everything covered for them and one parent, including tickets to the practice round on Monday. The whole package was really good.”

Q. How much has seeing all that one TV stirred interest this time around?

Sign-ups were a little slow because we were competing with school, but they’re starting to pick up. We’re definitely seeing an increase in participation. And I’ve seen kids who’ve never picked up a club before now going to the range the week before. There’s definitely motivation there with kids realizing they could end up on TV.

Q. Besides the increased number of qualifiers, how has the competition changed in year two? And what are the age categories?

Last year, we maxed out our qualifiers at 120 participants and this year it’s 200. The age ranges are 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15 with both boys and girls division. And those ages are determined by how old they would be on April 5th, 2015, which is the date of the national championship, so the youngest age to enter would be 6 if they would but 7 on or by April 5th, 2015.

Q. How does the competition work?

It’s a nine-shot competition that starts with putting. There’s a 6-foot putt, a 15 foot and a 30 foot. The hole is surrounded by scoring rings that provide points for how close they get. The max is 25 points for a holed putt.

They then have three chip shots, from about 12-15 yards, to a hole with scoring rings out to 10 feet and a make, again, is worth 25 points.

Then they have three swings on a 40-by-300-yard grid on a driving range. Beyond 300 yards is 25 points.

The highest total score wins and the top three in each age division advances from that age group’s qualifier to the next round. The top two in the sub-regional advance to Torrey Pines and the boy and girl winner in each division advances to the championship at Augusta.

Q. How do players or parents register, and how much does it cost?

Registration is free, and players sign up at www.drivechipandputt.com.

Q. What’s the atmosphere like at these events?

It’s competitive, but we still want kids to have fun. That’s the most important thing.

 

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

The U.S. Open Returns to Torrey Pines in 2021

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Just wanted to get something up about the big news of the golf day out here – the U.S. Open returning to Torrey Pines in 2021.

This is huge news and long anticipated, basically ever since Tiger Woods’ last putt dropped on his epic sudden-death victory in 2008, which, as we all know well, is his last major victory. I’ve got a post coming about the aura of the 2008 U.S. Open and how it still shines at Torrey every day, but for now I thought I’d give you a glimpse of the new hottest piece of golf gear in SoCal as of, oh, 1 p.m. today.

Traffic to the pro shop should be picking up any minute now. A great and well-deserved day at Torrey and for Southern California golf. Congrats to all the staff members who worked hard for years to make this happen for San Diego.

More thoughts on all of this to come.

Turf and Surf: Saturday photos from Torrey and Cardiff

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Photo courtesy of Kimberly Burditt

Just wanted to post a few shots from the day and the drive home. Stopped in Cardiff after the tournament at Torrey and got the shots below of big waves rolling in before sunset.

The above pic is the scene around the 5th green today, where Jordan Spieth hit his approach long and left of the green, had to take relief from a cart path and ended up taking double bogey. To his credit, he overcome a tough start and remains the story of the tourney – you know, if you don’t count Phil and Tiger being out of it.

I’m intrigued by Spieth and followed him for half his round today. I’m going back tomm. and we’ll see if he can really grab the golf world’s attention by finishing what he started. Should be fun.

See you at Torrey.

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Friday FIO Photos: Jordan and Tiger

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This was the closest I got to the story of the day on Friday. When Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth played No. 18 on the North Course on Friday, they passed right by the media center.

After both reaching the par-5 in two, Spieth would birdie while Woods would par, and they would go on to have dramatically different rounds after.

I’ve got some thoughts and observations on Spieth, but I knew he would dominate the post-round coverage today so I thought I’d roll them into a Saturday piece.

I can tell you Woods’ missed birdie putt on 18 was met with a gasp from the gallery; his lipped out par putt to end his round was met my gasps and few jeers by those gathered around a TV in the Lodge. Very curious to observe the great divide of sentiment that still surrounds Tiger.

But what a change in story lines we have from what was expected. Many thought this would be another victory lap for Tiger and instead Torrey Pines has been handed a scintillating rising-star storyline instead. Highly curious to see how this plays out, but no doubt Spieth’s stock went way up on Friday. He was very composed and calm about it after and seemed poised to follow it up over the weekend.

Curious side note: Was selfishly a bit glad to see Billy Horschel climb the leader board Friday after my practice round piece on him.

Spieth/Horschel in the final group on Sunday? I’d write that.

As they say, see you at Torrey.

& here’s a few more of Jordan and Tiger from Friday.

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FIO Day Two: Capturing Torrey’s Transformation

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This is my final follow-up post to the preview piece I did for the January issue of Southland Golf where I documented the maintenance practices at Torrey Pines and how they prepare the course to peak for the Farmers Insurance Open.

As a complement to that piece, I wanted to go back during the tournament and document the transformation, so, working again with Torrey’s head maintenance supervisor Paul Cushing, we ventured onto the South Course at about 3 p.m. Thursday. Because of the 30-minute fog delay to start the day, groups were still on the course, so Cushing and his crew had to wait a bit so as to not disturb play.

After spending about 45 minutes watching Cushing and his crew work, I decided it might be best to just analyze the process over one hole, so here’s a look at the work on No. 4 on the South, which is where the grounds crew started and then worked toward the clubhouse.

The following is a little photo essay about the process, which utilizes City of San Diego workers and volunteers each day to return the course to championship condition in about four hours at the end of each round. Cushing also shared that during Farmers week superintendents from across the country will fly in to work the tournament to get experience.

It was interesting to watch them work as a team and restore the shine to Torrey Pines.

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This is the maintenance crew and machinery staged near the 4th hole, awaiting the go-ahead from Cushing. The orange machine is worth noting. That’s a roller. It follows the mowers to help tighten the fairways. It’s a process Torrey added after Cushing worked the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club.

“It really makes a difference,” Cushing says. “It really tightens the turf and gives shots that extra little bounce.”

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     This captures quite a bit of the process in a snapshot. You can see the three mowers working in tandem in the fairway. They make one pass up and one pass back to keep turning to an absolute minimum. You can also see the hand-mowing on the approach and on the fringe. Then hand-watering takes place green-side and in the bunkers, but not on the green itself. To maintain green speeds, the greens to unwatered, spritzed at most, during the tournament.

One each hole, you’ve got about seven pieces of equipment and at least 12 workers working in unison.

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After the round, the bunkers are graded smooth in preparation for them to be hand-raked the next morning. Seemingly little things like bunker contours matter to players. The bunkers are raked to have the grain going toward the hole, which making it more conducive for an approach shot.

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     This shows the fairways making their return pass and, in the distance, you can see the roller working behind them.

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       This is the half-and-half look the mowers achieve. As you can see, the effect is created by simply mowing in two different directions. While pleasing in person, the look is largely done for TV, Cushing says.

“We never forget that the blimp is watching us,” he says. “That’s also why our lines have to be perfectly straight.”

The final phase of the transformation, which I neglected to get a photo of, is the volunteer crew that follows the machinery. They’re repairing the divots, which seemingly dot the fairway every two feet or less where approach shots are commonly taken.

If there’s an imperfect divot, the loose turf has to be removed and the divot filled with a seed/sand mixture. It won’t heal overnight, but it at least re-starts the process, Cushing says.

Image    And then the crew moves to the next hole and the process starts all over again until both courses – the North and South – are completed.

The one time-saver, at least on Thursday and Friday, is that hole locations don’t have to be re-cut. The pins and cups simply have to be removed and then replaced. Golfers who played the North Thursday play the South Friday and vice versa.

“They want the golfers to get the exact same golf course the other players had,” Cushing says. “It doesn’t save us a ton of time, but it is one less thing.”

I just wanted to say thanks again to Paul for sharing his time and his photos. I hope readers enjoyed this inside look at the process and gained a little appreciation for what it takes to make a championship golf course really sparkle.

Pro-Spective: No. 7 on the North Course

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Excuse the golfer on the right, who walked into my shot. This is the uphill, dog-leg right No. 7 on the North Course. It follows the dramatic downhill par-3 and is the last of the ocean holes on the North Course.

      While the pros largely can be much more aggressive on the North than the South – look at Thursday’s scoring split – Scott Bentley, our resident pro, says this is one hole the pros still have to respect.

       “It’s the tightest driving hole on the North. You’ll see a lot of 3-woods here,” he says. “You don’t want to get overaggressive here and bring in the trees on the right.”

      Playing at over 400 yards, a 3-wood off the tee still leaves a 7- or 8-iron approach, and Bentley says pros can’t afford to miss long.

     “You definitely don’t want to be over this green, because it will be sloping away from you.”

     It’ll be interesting to see today how many strokes the players who started on the South can make up on the North, including on No. 7.

FIO Day One: A Salute To A Classy Tradition

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When I arrived at the course today, I made a point to make the 14th hole on the South Course my first stop. I’d heard about the tournament’s annual tribute to the military and wanted to see it for myself.

What I witnessed is an incredibly classy use of a golf hole.

For those unfamiliar with a tradition that is now in its fifth year, the flag on 14 is an American flag. When the golfers reach the green, one of the caddies removes the flag and hands it to one of two waiting servicemen, who are in full dress.

The servicemen hold the flagstick to prevent the flag from touching the ground in a breach of flag etiquette.

When play of the hole is finished, the caddie retrieves and replaces the flagstick and then two more servicemen rotate in for the next group.

This is all staged at a hole were the grandstand, called the Patriots’ Outpost, is filled with active-duty soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guard, all of whom receive free admission to the tournament.

What a great way to give back to the veterans and honor their service.

The hole is sponsored this year by a company called ViaSat, which is a provider of network services.

ViaSat President Rick Baldridge says half his company’s business involves the military so sponsoring the hole was a natural. The sponsorship included providing the attending servicemen with free Wi-Fi at the event.

“San Diego is a great military town, and giving these guys a venue to come out and bring their families, it’s exciting to them. The military guys love golf. That’s why all the bases have golf courses.

“It’s a noble game and it’s a noble way to honor their contributions.”

I can’t improve on that, but I’ll just say I wish all, instead of some, golfers acknowledged the servicemen before moving on to the 15th tee. Doesn’t seem much to ask.

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Pro-Spective: No. 13 on the South

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         This mini-feature is an attempt to look at a pivotal hole each day through the eyes of a former pro who has played the tournament.

Our pro is Scott Bentley, who played the tournament three times in the 80s-90s, which, of course, is before the redesign of the South. Still, 11, 12, 13 was a pivotal stretch then and certainly is now.

Bentley says it’s hard to talk about 13 without mentioning the holes that precede it, 11 being a long par-3 and 12 being a notoriously tough par-4 back toward the ocean. Then 13 is a par-5 that played over 600 yards on Thursday.

“I always felt like if you bogeyed 11 or 12, or both, it deflated you a bit,” Bentley says. “But if you parred those, you were ready to score on 13.”

There are two tee boxes for No. 13, one being far right that makes the hole more of a dogleg left. That’s how it was played Thursday.

And it was a three-shotter for each of the groups I saw come through. The ones who struggled the most were those playing their second shots from the thick left rough. That included Tiger, but unlike the others, who bogeyed, he managed to save par.

The 13th green is front by tiered bunkers, making coming up short quite undesirable.

“You’ve really got to think about your second shot there if you don’t get home in two, because you want to leave it on an upslope. The greens are firm and won’t hold shorter shots.

“But if you birdie 13, it sets you up to make a little run.”

Bentley is now the Golf Course Manager at Torrey Pines and Mission Bay. He’ll give his hole insights daily here, and we thank for him volunteering.

Gearing Up

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If you haven’t yet seen it on TV, you won’t be able to miss it at the course.

Adidas is debuting it’s new adizero blue shoe at the tournament. It’s being sported by all the TaylorMade players and is prominently displayed around the course, including the patio of the clubhouse.

The shoe, in its many styles of blue, is a pleasing color contrast to the launch of the initial line and is certainly less loud that the Big Bird-yellow shoes many players wore a year ago.

It’s also worth a mention is Phil Mickelson’s blue KPMG hat is on sale at the merchandise tent on the South Course.

The proceeds of sales of the hat go to fight illiteracy.

You can learn more at philsbluehat.com.

Broadcast Byte

Tiger Woods’ 2014 tournament debut prompted another round of will-he-or-won’t-he regarding breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record for victories in major championships.

As most golfers on the planet should know, Jack’s record is 18 and Tiger has been holding at 14 for five years now.

I didn’t discover this until I got home and watched the tape of the broadcast, but The Golf Channel’s Gary McCord added a new two-cents of perspective on the chase.

McCord talked about Tiger now being age 38 and what it would take to break Jack’s record with 19 majors.

He used Phil Mickelson’s five majors as a gauge.

“So to get to 19, he’s got to have Phil’s career starting at age 38,” McCord said.

He didn’t really finish that thought, but I imagined him humming, “Things That Make You Go … Hmmm.”