SAN DIEGO – And on the dark side of the moon ...
Phil Mickelson liked what he saw.
With Tiger Woods drawing monster opening day galleries on the Torrey Pines’ South Course at the Farmers Insurance Open, Mickelson joined half the field teeing it up on the North Course, where smaller galleries watched players take on the Tom Weiskopf redesign for the first time in competition.
How was it?
“It was long, it was hard, but there were still a lot of good scores,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson opened with a 1-under-par 71, leaving him six shots behind the leader, Justin Rose, who also opened on the North Course.
Fourteen of the 18 players who opened at 68 or better played the North Course.
In the past, players knew they had to make a score on the North and then survive the challenge on the South. With Weiskopf’s redesign, there was curiosity over how much that formula might change.
“I actually think it was a little bit easier than it used to be,” said Stewart Cink, who opened with a 68 on the North Course.
The scoring average on the North (70.76) was almost three shots better Thursday than on the South (73.61). Last year, the North Course played to a 70.93 scoring average, the South to 73.68.
Weiskopf made the North greens bigger, but Cink said they’re easier to play with the new contours and the bent grass.
“They made it a little bit easier because the greens are larger and flatter,” Cink said.
Cink said the new greens may have more dramatic contouring, but not where it matters most, around the holes.
“They probably made the greens more severe, but where the cup areas are, they are actually flatter,” Cink said. “There are more humps in these greens, but around the cups, it’s a little bit easier than it used to be.”
Cink said the old North Course left players with tougher short putts over the old poa annua grasses.
“The fifth through 11th holes are some of the easiest holes on Tour,” Cink said. “You really want to make your hay there.”
Mickelson, who was considered for the redesign before Weiskopf won the job, was asked if he would have done the makeover differently.
“Oh sure, my idea was different,” Mickelson said. “But Tom’s got a great track record. He’s a wonderful designer. He’s done a lot of great courses and the course certainly is a challenge.”
Overall, Weiskopf got good reviews.
“It’s longer, for sure,” Rose said. “I think it still offers the opportunity to go low. With the surfaces being so pure, you can maybe make more putts than you did in the past ... but it didn’t feel easy.”