There is most certainly a before and after to the complicated love affair—and eventual falling out—between Phil Mickelson and the Torrey Pines golf courses. There is even a date of demarcation: Feb. 11, 2001.
On that Sunday, Mickelson, a lifelong San Diegan, won the then-Buick Invitational (now Farmers Insurance Open) for the third time in a dreamy nine-year span. The victory was so Phil-like and bizarre, in that he scorched the Torrey Pines South Course for a six-under-par 66 in the final round to get into a playoff with Davis Love III and Frank Lickliter. And then he won with a double bogey on the third extra hole after Mickelson and Lickliter both hit their first drives into the canyon on the 17th hole. Lickliter further butchered the job with a three-putt for triple, and that was it. Tour win No. 18 for Mickelson at the time.
Lucky as it was, that was the last time—now 20 years ago— that Mickelson lifted a trophy at Torrey Pines. Three months after, bulldozers arrived on the South Course to render Mickelson’s playground all but unrecognizable. Architect Rees Jones was tasked by the Friends of Torrey Pines group to redesign the South in a way that would attract the USGA to bring a U.S. Open to San Diego. Everything fell into place, and in 2002, the municipal course was awarded the 2008 U.S. Open.
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