A Monster Awaits Buick Field

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This weeks Buick Invitational field faces the longest course on tour this season. The South Course at Torrey Pines has been increased to a whopping 7,607 yards.
 
Famed golf architect Rees Jones rebuilt the course that was designed by William Bell and William Bell, Jr., and completed in 1957.
 
The goal we had was to build the best facility for the people of the state, the people of the city, as well as the best facility for the best players in the game, Jones said.
 
More than just length has been added to the layout.
 
Every green was relocated; every green was re-contoured, rebuilt; every bunker has been relocated; the tees are rebuilt. So basically, its an old golf course on a new routing, Jones said.
 
The extensive effort was made, in part, to try and convince the United States Golf Association that the venue was worthy of a future U.S. Open.
 
Thus far, reviews have been very positive.
 
I asked Pat Perez ' he grew up playing here ' and he didnt know who I was, I said, What do you think of the changes? and he said, Theyre great! recalled Jones.
 
Its really, really good, said San Diego native and 1998 Buick Invitational champion Scott Simpson. I cant imagine anyone not liking it.
 
What you have now is a U.S. Open-style course, said two-time defending champion Phil Mickelson.
 
Definitely harder, said Joey Sindelar, who is making his 17th start in this event. I think its a positive thing.
 
Jones, who also doctored Bethpage Black, site of this years U.S. Open, completed the South Course changes in just 92 days, with a $3.3 million budget.
 
I think it is a major venue, Jones said of Torrey Pines. Its got the space; its got the airport; its got the hotel rooms. Now it has a true championship-caliber golf course.
 
The municipal course is one of two in rotation this week. Each player will compete on both the South and North Courses over the first two days. The South Course will be played exclusively over the final two rounds.
 
Jones has yet to tackle the 6,874-yard North Course.
 
Of the South Course changes, Mickelson says the most dramatic was made to the par-5 ninth. What once was a reachable 536 yards is now 613.
 
It used to be a birdie hole all the way, Mickelson said. Now, I think par would be a good score. I dont think you can get there in two (shots). Thats the biggest change, psychologically.
 
Jones believes the back nine will be the most telling, particularly the final stretch of holes.
 
The par-4 12th is now 504 yards ' up from 468. The par-4 14th has been lengthened 37 yards to 435. The par-4 15th has increased 88 yards to 477. Two bunkers have also been added to No. 15 ' one near the right of the fairway landing area and another left of the green.
 
Fifteen has always been a driver-sand wedge, driver-pitching wedge hole, Mickelson said. By moving the tees back 70 yards, its 480 yards now, and its a driver and a mid-iron. The drive becomes much tighter because we used to be able to get past the trees on the right. We cant do that now. So now we have to thread it between the trees on the right and the trees on the left. Theres only about a 10- or 15-yard window to hit it in and have a clear shot into the green.
 
Then theres the par-5 18th. What once was a paltry 498 yards is now 571 ' over water.
 
Its a wonderful layout, a very challenging layout, Mickelson said. Its as long and as hard as just about any golf course Ive seen or played.