Farmer’s Insurance Open — and Tiger Woods — Returns to Torrey Pines
Thru Jan. 31, 2017
The Farmer’s Insurance Open teed off at Torrey Pines Golf Course under a blue sky that defied several gloomy, wet days leading up to the tournament. Chamber of Commerce-quality weather notwithstanding, the star attraction at the picturesque course will surely be the opportunity to witness the return of the tournament’s seven-time champion, Tiger Woods, who also snagged one of his three US Open wins on the course.
At a press conference Wednesday, Woods fielded questions about his return and appeared equally enthusiastic and realistic about the days ahead. After a lengthy break from the tour due to multiple back surgeries, plus a major change in equipment— he recently inked a partnership with TaylorMade after Nike discontinued its golf equipment business — it was evident that Woods is likely as eager to return to the game as spectators are to see him. When asked his reaction to his draw with current world #1 Jason Day and reigning US Open champion Dustin Johnson, Woods beamed after a quick reply: “I was excited.” He went on to say, “You know, that’s two guys that are the best in the world and they’re up there and playing some unbelievable golf and they’re good friends of mine. I couldn’t have asked for a better pairing.”
Regarding how he’s feeling about his ability to return to his former level of play, Woods said, “We all know I haven’t played a full schedule in a very long time, so this is an unknown. I’ve been away from it for so long.” He is still Tiger Woods, though, and his competitive spirit combined with his love for the game and the other players came through. “I miss trying to beat these guys, I really do. We’re a fraternity out here. We see each other all year and some of us have seen each other for decades out here. It’s just fun to be competitive and fun to go out there and compete at the highest level and against the best.”
It’s not just the fans who are eager to welcome Tiger back. Torrey Pines High School grad Michael Kim, returning for his third Farmer’s Insurance Open appearance, said, “It’s exciting. I used to come here when I was a kid, and watched him win one of the eight times he’s won here. Hopefully I can get a late Sunday tee time with him.”
Kim isn’t the only player with local ties in the field here. He’ll be joined by fellow Torrey Pines alums Jamie Lovemark and Pat Perez, as well as San Diego State Aztec alumni J.J. Spaun and Xander Schauffele, four-time PGA Tour winner and Poway High alum, Charley Hoffman, Murrieta native Rickie Fowler, and of course Phil Mickelson. When asked about the number of “locals” competing, PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan said, “I think it’s fantastic, and I think that not only are they local, but they’re loved and this is a golf passionate, golf-rich city and area. So when you have the players that we have on our tour that come from this area to achieve the success that they’ve had, to represent the area and for there to be the level of pride that it has, we’re fortunate to see it in a lot of markets, I do think it’s particularly unique here. I was talking to a number of local players in the last couple hours and they’re very focused on competing and winning in front of their great fans.”
The fans have plenty of reason to visit Torrey Pines this week beyond the incredible golf. A focus on the broader experience for fans of all kinds has led the PGA to create opportunities for attendees to enjoy the tournament away from the ropes of the gallery. On the eighth green, William Hill Estate Winery, the official wine of the PGA, recreated an open-air replica of their Napa tasting room, where they’ll pour their Napa Valley Chardonnay and Cabernet in addition to their Coastal Collection wines. On the opposite side of that same green, Grey Goose’s 19th Hole Lounge pours its signature golf cocktails, including the Grey Goose 19th Hole, Le Citron Bloody Mary, and a refreshing Le Grand Fizz. Both are open to the public.
Whatever the result, the Farmer’s Insurance Open is poised to delight golf fans this weekend with perfect weather at a stunning location, packed with major star power and unique opportunities for everyone to enjoy the tournament on every level. Well worth skipping the telecast and heading to the coast to watch the action live. Thursday and Friday, January 26-27, parking at the Del Mar Race Track is expected to sell out, so fans are encouraged to buy online in advance. farmersinsuranceopen.com Deanna Murphy
Tiger Woods at press conference: Photo by Bob Stefanko March 1999 cover: Photo by John Schulz All other photography by Deanna Murphy