SAN DIEGO – Phil Mickelson, a San Diego native who grew up playing Torrey Pines, has never been ambiguous in his assessment of Rees Jones’ 2001 redesign of the South Course and for good reason.
Prior to Jones’ handiwork Lefty won back-to-back titles at Torrey Pines in ’00 and ’01 to go along with his victory here in 1993. Since that makeover he’s 0-for-9, a line that doesn’t include his tie for 18th at the 2008 U.S. Open on the seaside muni, with his best finish a pair of T-4s in ’03 and ’04. All of which makes his opening 67, which matches his low round on the South since the redesign, so encouraging.
“There used to be a standing motto where balls would break toward the ocean on every green, and the North course is still that way. But when Rees Jones comes in, he has every break go away from the bunker. It's just a trait he puts into all his golf courses,” said Mickelson, who needed just 28 putts on Thursday and is tied for third place.
“So as soon as I started to pick up on that and see how every putt breaks away from the bunkers here, I started to read the greens much better and putt them better.”
Mickelson, who like most San Diego locals prefers the North Course, also received a boost from his wife and mother, who were both walking the fairways at Torrey Pines for Round 1 following a difficult year battling cancer.
“I forgot how much I missed having (wife Amy) out here,” Mickelson said.