Torrey Pines: Hell by the Pacific
Torrey Pines is a great public facility with gorgeous holes overlooking the Pacific, so I feel bad about saying this, but I haven't liked the South course since it was redesigned in 2001.
The course is a monster, the longest freaking course around. At Bethpage in 2002 we talked about the long par-4s and how guys couldn't reach the start of the fairway on the 10th hole.
Bethpage was 7,214 yards. Torrey Pines sets up to 7,643.
How long is long enough? Where does it end? Then officials complain about the pace of play. Of course it takes a long time to play. It takes a long time just to walk that far, man.
They call Rees Jones the Open Doctor, but he doesn't make courses better; he simply makes them harder.
It's all subjective, but in my opinion he has made some of them Torrey South included more difficult than they need to be.
Remember, people have to play this track the other 51 weeks of the year. I bet Torrey Pines lost four or five tee times a day on the South course after the redesign because it plays so much slower.
If I lived in San Diego, I'd play the North course, which may be prettier and is definitely more fun.
Torrey Pines is filled with brutally long par-4s with a lot of trouble around the greens. The par-5s aren't bad, but they're probably the weakest part of the course. The par-3 3rd hole is going to be the beauty shot of the tournament. It plays downhill to a green with the shimmering Pacific as a backdrop.
There's a new tee box that makes the hole play only 140 yards. That's good because if you get the wrong wind from the regular tee (195 yards), you could have a six-group backup there.
I'm not a big fan of par-4s that are longer than an interstate. I'll never say the best hole on a course is some 480-yard par-4. It doesn't take a genius to design a long hole.
My least-favorite hole is the 12th, which is going to play as long as 504 yards. It runs toward the ocean and, therefore, into the prevailing wind. The 12th has fairway bunkers on both sides of the landing area and a bunker on each side of the green. There's a swale in front of the green that gives you the illusion that it's uphill.
The 4th hole is similar except that it runs along the cliffs. It's 488 yards with fairway bunkers on the right and a bunker guarding the front-left half of the green. Hit a great drive, and you still have a long iron or even a hybrid into the green. If you could skip any two holes on this track, these are the two.
My idea of a great hole is number 7. At 461 yards it's long enough to create a little fear factor. It aims toward the ocean and plays along a cliff on the right. The fairway slopes quite a bit, so it's an underrated second shot with a downhill- sidehill slope and the ball below your feet.
It's easy to lose your second shot right into scorpion territory on the cliffs or left, where you'll face a difficult up and down.
You don't hear Tour pros complaining about par-5s no matter how long they are, because we're going to reach any green in three shots.
The 13th (614 yards) is going to be a key hole to birdie because the swing holes at Torrey are the 14th, a dangerous par-4; the 15th, a long par-4; and the 16th, a difficult par-3.
You can make double bogey at the 435-yard 14th in a minute. The canyon runs the length of the left side, and the right side is tree-lined. You'll see guys hitting fairway woods off the tee. More than half of the green is flanked by unplayable canyon.
You catch a greenside bunker shot a little thin and, uh-oh, you could be dropping another ball. I hear the USGA is talking about moving the tee way up on 14 to turn it into a drivable par-4. To quote Yogi Berra, I'll believe it when I believe it.
The 478-yard 15th is lined by huge eucalyptus trees that overhang the fairway. You need to hit a straight ball here any shot with movement is going to struggle to find room. The green slopes pretty hard right to left too, so you'd better be playing a left-to-right shot into the green.
The 16th is a long tee shot, either 193 or 225 yards, toward the ocean and into the prevailing wind. It's not a birdie hole, trust me.
The 17th and 18th can be birdie holes (if there is such a thing in an Open), so if you can survive the Three Amigos of 14, 15 and 16, you can make up ground. The 17th isn't that long and the 18th will be fun hats off to the USGA for keeping it as a par-5.
At 573 yards, 18 will be reachable in two and will probably rank as one of the easiest finishing holes in Open history. There will be eagles.
The USGA also said the rough will be manageable. I've talked to three guys who've played Torrey recently, and they all said the rough is beyond ridiculous, so we'll see.