By John Strege
SAN DIEGO -- Pinus Torreyana, the Torrey pine, is found in only two places on earth, one of them this strip along the San Diego coastline from which the golf courses took their name. It is an endangered species, incidentally, and not the only one it turns out.
For awhile, the birdie went nearly extinct on the South Course at Torrey Pines, a municipal course overrun by thick rough and hard greens more suitable for a USGA torture chamber that the Farmers Insurance Open.
"I've thought back on my 33 year pro career and under perfect weather like this week this course is the hardest course I've played on Tour!!" Mark Calcavecchia wrote on Twitter. Calcavecchia, 53, now is principally a Champions Tour player who made a rare foray back in time and probably wishing he hadn't. Champions Tour courses are more benevolent.
"Should play US Open here every 5 years like OPEN at St Andrews. Perfect course. Pars good BIRDS amazing!!!!" he also Tweeted, knowing, of course, that he won't be subjected to playing in them.
Still, point well taken. The penal nature of the setup (Scott Stallings' winning score was only nine-under), along with the spectacular seaside setting and generally perfect weather were a reminder to the USGA or PGA of America that the course is rough and ready for another major championship.
No one will argue that the South Course at Torrey Pines is a classic design, but in 2008 it hosted one of the most memorable U.S. Opens in history, one that was graded a success on virtually every front, including logistically and financially, two of the governing bodies' principal concerns.
A setup that played more than four strokes harder than the North Course did in the first two rounds has its dissenters, no doubt, though Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee was not among them. "Rough was retro. Tour needs more weeks like this," he wrote on Twitter.
Even Tiger Woods welcomed the challenge, at least a few days before shooting 79 and missing the Saturday cut. He likened it to what would ordinarily find in a U.S. Open. "I find it good," he said, presumably considering it an advantage.
The tour constituency would likely argue otherwise, and maybe the hierarchy, too. Not only was Tiger not around on Sunday, neither was Phil Mickelson, the latter's exit the result of back issues exacerbated by slashing from the rough.
Calcavecchia, meanwhile, surely was kidding about bringing the Open to Torrey every five years, but major championships here should not join the pinus Torreyana and the birdie on the endangered species list.