By Barry Jagoda
Declaring that he had created “a new golf course,” not merely a remodel, course architect Tom Weiskopf said he looked at the aesthetic quality of the north course, not at a comparison of expected difficulty between the Championship South Course and of what he agreed should be called the New North.
In an exclusive pre-tournament interview with Times of San Diego, Weiskopf underscored hopes for fun also for local golfers and visitors. Of the San Diego city owned venue, Weiskopf said, “This is a municipal golf course and now it will be as enjoyable for the pros as for amateurs.”
Elaborating enthusiastically Weiskopf said, “How could you find a better piece of property than this? I think the brand is the ocean out there. You know, standing on various tees and looking down the coastline at San Diego and La Jolla, the ocean and the waves and the whales and all that,” Weiskopf said. “This is absolutely a new course, not just a remodel.”
City officials chose Weiskopf for the nine-month, $12 million change-over. Highly regarded for his design of more than 60 golf courses, Weiskopf had won 18 Professional Golf Association tournaments during his 30-year PGA Tour career, including his first victory, at San Diego in 1968.
Speaking of the professionals who will play a round each on the New North before the best of them move to weekend championship play on Torrey’s South Course, Weiskopf said, “I’m not worried about scoring. Those guys are so good at what they do, why not applaud if somebody really plays a sensational round. Nobody remembers what anybody shoots anymore, it’s who won and that is the way it should be.”
Conceding that his New North may be two or three strokes easier than the South, “I wouldn’t worry about what they shoot. Let’s make sure the guys enjoy it.”
With an eye very much focused also on amateur golfers, Weiskopf said, “I was driven by the fact that there are 80,000 annual rounds played there, and the fact that there are 25 million golfers in the United States.”
Apart from limited experience during Tuesday’s informal practice rounds, as San Diego coastal weather turned sunny, the New North remains a mystery for the pros. Golf’s top-ranked player, Australian Jason Day, who won at Torrey in 2016, told reporters: “I have not seen the golf course yet, that’s why I changed my (Wednesday) pro-am from the South course to the North course so I could actually get a decent round in before the start of play. But I’ll let you know after I play it in the tournament on Thursday or Friday.”
Late Tuesday tournament officials scheduled Day to play the New North course on Friday in a group with Tiger Woods and the 2016 Player of the Year, Dustin Johnson. That will be a round of golf certain to draw a maximum number of spectators.
This threesome will tee off at 9:30 a.m., starting on the New North Course, hole 10. On Thursday the three greats will start on the South Course, hole one, at 10:40 a.m These rounds will be covered in full on “The Golf Channel.”
Woods, who has won the Torrey Pines tournament seven times, not counting his memorable, magnificent victory here in the 2008 U.S. Open, has been out of commission for back injuries. This week marks Tiger’s first official PGA Tour start since 2015, though he has recently played some informal practice rounds and says his back is “feeling fine.”
A reporter asked Woods about a round he played in December with then President-Elect Donald Trump. “I’ll tell you what, for a person who’s 70 years old, he hits it hard,” Woods said.
Barry Jagoda is a San Diego-based journalist and international consultant. He was an award-winning writer and producer at NBC News and CBS News, and a founding contributing editor of the highly regarded Texas Monthly magazine.