Picture Perfect Day at Torrey Pines

Watching the world’s best golfers is what draws fans to the Torrey Pines Golf Course for the Farmers Insurance Open. The wide assortment of promotional booths, sponsor tents and other activities at the entrances and along some of the fairways is a pleasant surprise that makes the experience even more memorable.

The Kodak booth and the Military Appreciation Pavilion, both located adjacent to the South’s 14th green, are two of the more popular places.

Thousands of fans have taken advantage of the opportunity to get their picture taken at the Kodak booth. Amber, Piper or one of the others in the booth position their subjects in such a way that the hole and/or the ocean serve as a backdrop. In some instances a fan’s favorite player can even be seen in the background putting out on the green. Within a few minutes of having their photo snapped, the fans are handed a free souvenir to take with them. “That’s a cute picture of all of us,” one woman said to her friends as they walked out.

Glenn and Donna Harris get a souvenir photo to remember their visit to the Farmers Insurance Open.

Marine Sgt. Joseph Barton replaces the flagstick on the South's 14th hole after one of the groups finished playing it.

Glenn and Donna Harris of McLoud, Okla., were were wearing Oklahoma sweatshirts as they followed the group that included Anthony Kim, a Sooners alumni.

“It’s been a blast. It really has . . . ” said Glenn, who paused in midsentence when he heard a cheer go up, “Oh, it looks like he (Kim) just birdied again. Good.”

The Harris’ ducked into the Kodak booth for a picture before heading over to the Military Pavilion.

“There’s so much to do here,” said Glenn. “You can’t ask for anything better.”

Glenn, a chief petty officer in the Navy, was stationed in San Diego recently. As an active military member, he was entitled to enjoy the Military Pavilion sponsored by the Padres. There was a line to get in much of the afternoon, with service members and their families enjoying complimenary food and beverages.

A few uniformed Marines had the added honor of getting to take turns standing behind the green on the 14th hole and replace the flagstick — which had a small American flag on it — after each group completed the hole.

“I play golf myself, so I was all over it,” said staff sergeant Joseph Barton of Gainesville, N.Y., who has been stationed in San Diego the past five years. “I was in for John Daly’s group and Phil Mickelson’s group with Rickie Fowler, and Mr. Kim just came through.

“It was an outstanding experience. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Barton was eager to get back to the base.

“I’m just going to go back and gloat about it now,” he said.

Barton was accompanied by staff sergeant Sheldon R. Edwards, who was still talking about getting an autographed golf ball from Daly earlier in the week.

“That’s the one I really wanted,” said Edwards, who is from West Virginia. It wasn’t the one he really NEEDS, though.

“My sergeant major said to get Tiger Woods’ autograph on a golf ball,” said Edwards, “or he said he’s going to have my orders changed and have me sent to Twentynine Palms.”

The reference was to the world’s largest Marine Base. By distance it is only 150 miles or so from San Diego. By climate? That’s something else altogether. A temperature of 119 degrees was recorded at Twentynine Palms one summer day a few years ago.

Edwards hopes the sergeant major was joking.

Phil Mickelson and Bill Haas share the lead coming into Sunday’s final round of the Farmers. Woods, who slipped from the leaderboard Saturday with a 2-over-par 74, is eight shots back and likely in no mood for signing autographs.


For Openers, Torrey Pines is Spectacular

Spectacular shots at Thursday's opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open were rivaled by the spectacular weather and surroundings at the Torrey Pines Golf Course.

Mark Twain once referred to golf as “a good walk spoiled.”

Tell that to the thousands of fans who thoroughly enjoyed themselves Thursday walking the grounds of the North and South courses at Torrey Pines for the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open.

Spectacular was more like it. The weather was magnificent, the scenery was stunning and the golf was great.

The spectators saw South Korea’s Sunghoon Kang shoot an 8-under-par 64 to take a one-shot lead. They watched three other players come within two strokes of Kang and 10 others — including hometown favorite Phil Mickelson and John Daly playing the South — three strokes back after shooting 67s. They witnessed six-time champion Tigers Woods open with a 69 on the North.

Kang’s round was highlighted by an eagle on the North’s 14th hole, a 526-yard par-5. Kang actually hit over the green with his second shot but chipped it into the hole coming back for the eagle three. Interestingly, he is one of four rookies — along with Chris Kirk, Keegan Bradley and Fabian Gomez — among the top five players following the first round. It would be pretty remarkable for one of them to pull off a victory here. The event hasn’t had a first-time winner in 20 years.

The rookies are similar to spectators walking the course in that many of them are excited simply for the opportunity to get a glimpse of veterans like Woods and Mickelson up close.

“I know they are so much better than me right now, so I’m really trying to learn from them,” said Kang. “I really want to learn how they play and how they do around the greens and how they work the ball and how they practice and how their pre-shot routines are. I really want to learn. . . . I don’t want to put any pressure on me, so I’m really just trying to have fun.”

Mickelson, who has won this event three times, position himself to make a run at a fourth title. It wouldn’t be surprising. Mickelson is something of a fast starter, winning in his first PGA Tour event of the season five times during his career.

“I’m excited,” said Mickelson. “I’m excited to get back playing golf. I’m excited about playing on the West Coast, because these are the tournaments that I grew up playing and dreaming of playing. I’ve always enjoyed playing here. It’s similar grass to what I’ve grown up on. So the fact that I’ve been practicing hard, I’ve been working hard and my excitement level is very high.”

The emotion was similar for Woods in his season debut. He seemed to enjoy the atmosphere as much as everyone around him did.

“The crowds were great today,” said Woods. “They were into it. . . . I think everyone came out and enjoyed themselves. Perfect weather. Get to work on your farmer tan, so it’s good.”


Torrey Pines Tees It Up

Paul Stankowski begins practice round at Torrey Pines North.

Monday is always very casual the week of the Farmers Insurance Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Course as final preparations are made for the PGA event.

Last-minute touches on the tee boxes, firming up the fairways and grooming the greens is done by the grounds crew. Sponsor booths, souvenir and refreshment stands are loaded with merchandise. Media members from as near as Rancho Bernardo and as far as Australia and Japan begin checking in, as do some of the golfers in the 156-man field. Continue reading