SAN DIEGO – On the news conference schedule for the Farmers Insurance Open, Jason Day was slated to speak with the media a half hour after Tom Weiskopf.
Day decided to show up early.
Smart move, because Weiskopf, the major champion-turned-golf course architect, was busy discussing his nine-month, $12.6 million renovation of Torrey Pines’ North Course. The new and - hopefully - improved North debuts this week.
The nines have been flipped, to capitalize on the panoramic ocean and canyon views.
The average green size was increased, from 4,500 to 6,400 square feet.
The poa annua grass was replaced with bent grass.
The number of bunkers was reduced, from 60 to 42 (21 each side).
And 40 or 50 pine trees were removed, because of a beetle infestation.
“It definitely needed a bit of a change,” Day said.
Originally designed by William F. Bell, the North Course – about 600 yards shorter than its behemoth brother – has been serving up low scores for nearly 60 years before its badly needed redo.
Prior to last year, each of the past six winners at the Farmers Insurance Open shot 67 or better on the North. The scoring average was generally about three strokes easier during the first two rounds, and over the past decade it has surrendered scores of 61 and 62. Of course, those numbers are inconceivable on the South, which hosted the 2008 U.S. Open and will again stage the year’s second major in 2021.
“You typically go, OK, I’m going to go try to shoot as low as I can on the North side and try to survive on the South side,” Day said. “That’s the mentality because of how tough the South side is.”
The North was beefed up even before the deluge that hit San Diego over the weekend.
At 7,258 yards, it is more than 200 yards longer than last year. Most of the additional yardage can be found in the par 4s. A year ago, there were only two par 4s longer than 450 yards. Now, there are six – the same as on the brutally long South, which checks in at 7,698 yards.
The most scoreable section of the course, Weiskopf said, is Nos. 5-11. All of the par 5s are gettable, too, even with the softer conditions.
Frequent Farmers participants will notice a new putting green by the North’s first tee. The two courses, North and South, will feature different putting surfaces – bent grass and poa annua, respectively.
“They’ll figure it out real quick, they’re that good at what they do,” Weiskopf said. “The most important thing is the speed. It will probably be a little bit of a challenge this year, because they haven’t played enough rounds on this golf course. The breaks will be a little less severe. So my advice is: If you see some break, play less break.”
Said Day, who switched his pro-am round to the North to get another look: “You’ve just got to somehow adapt.”
Though Weiskopf is interested in input from the PGA Tour players – a survey will be sent following the event – he’s more concerned with how his reimagined layout will be received by the recreational golfer, with approximately 82,000 rounds of play there annually.
“I’m trying to make people that come here to play make it a point to play the North Course now, not avoid playing it,” he said.
As for what players will shoot this week, Weiskopf has no idea. He doesn’t set the tee markers or cut the hole locations. There’s also a possibility that the first two rounds could be played with preferred lies, which would significantly impact scoring. He guessed that, once again, it’ll play two or three strokes easier than the South.
“But I’m not worried about scoring,” Weiskopf said. “Those guys are so good at what they do, why not applaud if somebody really plays a sensational round? Why not award him the congratulations, well played, you know?”