Behind the Story Torrey Pines

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Editor's note: 'Golf Central' featured Torrey Pines in a special segment Sunday evening. Golf Channel producer Kelly Miller writes about the making of the feature and what you didn't see on TV.

Driving up North Torrey Pines Road for our 8 a .m. call time, one can’t help but notice the breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean. Pulling into Torrey Pines, I immediately think of Tiger Woods’ putt on the 18th green Sunday of the 2008 U.S. Open and being glued to the television watching his magical run on Saturday.  

Our points of interest on this day, Jan. 21, is how Torrey Pines acquired the '08 Open, the effect it had on the course and the area, and whether the National Championship will ever return. The first thing on our agenda was finding a location for all of the interviews that afternoon. The first holes for both the North and South courses provided the beautiful backdrop, allowing the interviewees to look like they were sitting in front of a green screen.

Torrey Pines

Once we secured the location, we set out to capture some of the stunning holes and scenery that is Torrey Pines. Our first stop was the third hole on the North Course, a 121-yard par 3. My first thought: I would take my 5-hybrid – yes, hybrid not 5-iron – and take a rip. If only I had my clubs with me. My second thought: Watch out for rattlesnakes, which is so nicely posted on a sign near the cart path.

Driving around the course, every so often you can hear a buzz in the distance. What type of  buzz? It is hard to pinpoint until you see the helicopters and fighter jets fly over head. It truly is a sight to see.  

After capturing video of various holes around Torrey Pines South, we headed to the 18th. As we drove up I envisioned the scene from June 2008, crowds cheering louder than ever as Tiger forced a playoff against Rocco Mediate.

There are grandstands there now, set up for the PGA Tour's Farmer’s Insurance Open. They are a bit smaller, and empty, but as we stand on the green you notice how downhill the putt was that Tiger made to force the extra 18 (turned 19). We recreated that putt with Scott Walker and it is amazing to think that anyone who plays Torrey Pines South has the opportunity to do the same. Both courses are open to the public, which is a huge draw for visitors to Southern California. Local San Diegans still frequent the 36-hole track, but surprisingly more people frequent the North Course, not the tougher South Course layout which was redesigned by Rees Jones.

“It's a trade off,' said Paul Spiegelman, co-founder of the San Diego Municipal Golfers Alliance. 'I remember Rees Jones saying, 'Oh, we made it so anybody can play.' I play the gold tees; I'm a senior now so and I can manage it, but I was a relatively low handicap. I played college golf, but it's a rather intimidating course for a lot of people so they just don't play it.'

As we interviewed a few others, there are many different opinions surrounding the debate on whether it was a good thing the U.S. Open came to Torrey Pines and whether it should return.

Mark Marney, deputy director of golf operations for San Diego, had this to say: “I think that looking at the overall city, I think it's beneficial to the city. I think it's good for San Diego. I think it's good for San Diego to be a major destination for large events just like Comic Con and Super Bowls and other big venues. The U.S. Open is another great feather to have in our cap, so I think from our perspective ... definitely (it was a good thing).”

After wrapping for the day, it’s unclear whether the Open will return to this SoCal location, but as we strike and pack up the gear one thing is for sure: Torrey Pines is, beautifully speaking, a major venue.