Tiger Woods is back at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif., this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. Woods has been a winner at Torrey Pines eight times in his life -- once as a junior player, once in the U.S. Open and six times in the regular PGA Tour event.
While great golf is a certainty from the Tour players this week, a great time is also a certainty if you ever find yourself in the La Jolla/San Diego area. We caught up with Torrey Pines PGA Head Professional Joe DeBock for a little Q&A about the tournament and -- more importantly for you -- what makes La Jolla such a special place to visit.
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Destination: San Diego
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DeBock offered up a list of activities for a family vacation, as well as a one-day itinerary if you find yourself alone and with some spare time in La Jolla.
PGA.com: Good morning, Joe. Thank you for joining us as always. While I was pulling together some information for this Q&A, I paid a visit to the official website of the Farmers Insurance Open. Under the "Frequently Asked Questions" section, I got a chuckle when I saw, "Is Tiger Woods playing in the tournament?" Well, lucky for those interested, he is. What does it mean to have Tiger back making his 2013 PGA Tour season debut at Torrey Pines, a place where he's had incredible success through the years?
DeBock: It's great to have Tiger Woods back. He's won eight championships here at Torrey Pines. As a kid he won the 1991 Junior World Golf Championship, the 2008 U.S. Open Championship and six PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open Championships. He probably has more championships here at Torrey Pines then any other venue. This might age me a little bit, but I watched him play and win all those championships here at Torrey. Tiger creates a lot interest. He can bring extra tens of thousands of people to your event. Plus, a huge media following and I know the TV coverage has been increased because of Tiger's commitment to play. He plays to win!
PGA.com: Joe, you've seen a lot of incredible things happen in your years at Torrey Pines. In terms of "crazy" though, where would you rank what happened to 2012 runner up Kyle Stanley? He hit what looked to be a great third shot on the 72nd hole only to have it suck back into the water. He would go on to lose in a playoff to Brandt Snedeker. The loss could have been crushing for a young player, but Stanley went out and won the next week in Phoenix. How do you explain all that unfolded for Stanley from that last day at Torrey to the last day in Phoenix?
DeBock: Not sure if you can top the Kyle Stanley story; just the long, played out drama was hard for anyone to watch. He had a three-shot lead going into the last hole. Kyle hit a good third shot, just too much spin which sucked back into the water. He then hit again from the fairway aiming away from the water, this time landing safely on the green, but he went on to 3-putt and made a triple bogey 8. Brandt Snedeker's was in with a birdie on the last hole and made up four shots on Kyle to get into a playoff. Then the drama continued and Kyle lost in a playoff. At this point everyone thought this kid would never be able to recover emotionally let alone to win on the PGA Tour. Thank God he got the monkey off his back the next week and won... otherwise not sure if he would ever be the same.
Another story that comes to mind from 2005 is when Charles Howell III was hitting his third shot into the last hole, the par 5. He was 96 yards away and flew the ball directly into the cup but the ball bounces back out of the hole and rolled into the water hazard. He wound up making 6. If his ball stayed in the hole it would have been an eagle 3 and he would have tied Tiger Woods for a playoff. Talk about bad luck.
PGA.com: La Jolla is one of the most beautiful stops on the PGA Tour. If a fan is staying an extra day after the tournament ends, what's the one activity you'd say they need to do before leaving town?
DeBock: If you don't have time to go to the beach or the opportunity to play Torrey Pines and you want an adventure, I would do a Paragliding ride at the Torrey Pines Glider Port. They take you up tandem and you'll get the best views in San Diego with spectacular views of the beaches, ocean and Torrey Pines Golf Courses. Of Course the San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park and Sea World are always a must see as well.
PGA.com: Obviously it's nearly impossible to get a room during tournament week, but can you tell us what it is that makes The Lodge at Torrey Pines so special and such a great place to stay for families looking for a nice vacation?
DeBock: Well for one, the Lodge is right on the historic 18th hole. A lot of history has taken place on this hole. Torrey Pines has some of the best sunsets ever, plus if you are not playing golf you can walk down to the beaches through the Torrey Pines State Reserve which is one of the wildest stretches of land on the Southern California Coast. The Lodge itself is spectacular and the food and service is the best.
PGA.com: Final question for you, Joe. Can you give us a solid, one-day in San Diego itinerary for the golfer reading this? Where should they grab breakfast? Where should they play? And where should they go for dinner?
DeBock: Well, I'll describe a day I've done many times. Breakfast at the Lodge, golf Torrey Pines and then head to where the surf meets the turf. The Del Mar Race Track (Seasonal) is a great place to spend the day, have a nice lunch and watch the horses run. Maybe you might even make a few bucks. It's probably the most beautiful racing facility in the country. Next, you must get some authentic Mexican food for dinner. You can go right next to the race track in Solana Beach at Tony Jacal's or Fidel's Restaurant or head down to Old Town San Diego where authentic Mexican food is everywhere. Enjoy your Margaritas, what a great day!
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tj_auclair.