Torrey hosts 2004 Buick Open

    The PGA Tour will make its annual stop in San Diego this weekend for the 52nd straight year at Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course. La Jolla’s public course will host the 2004 Buick Invitational and a field of 156 professional golfers playing for a purse of $4.8 million in a four-day tournament beginning Feb. 12.

    Courtesy of David Ung
    Guardian

    Amongst the long list of golfers participating in the event is No. 1-ranked player in the world and Buick Invitational defending champion Tiger Woods. Woods, who won the 2003 event by four strokes over Carl Petterson, will return from a month-long break in competition to defend his title and hold onto his No. 1 ranking.

    Southern California natives Phil Mickelson and Scott Simpson will also be in the field. Mickelson, who was a scoreboard bearer at the Buick as a teenager, grew up playing at Torrey Pines and has a lot of experience on both the North and South Courses. His familiarity with each of the 36 holes is evident by three Buick Invitational titles.

    San Diegan Scott Simpson grew up playing junior golf in La Jolla, and says he’s at “”home”” when he’s playing at Torrey Pines. In fact, when he was younger, the 48-year-old Simpson hit balls at the UCSD driving range, which has recently been torn down.

    Another notable player that will be teeing it up this week is 20-year-old Kevin Na. The youngest member of the PGA Tour, who resides in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., will be making just his fourth career PGA start this weekend.

    Na, who turned professional at the age of 17, bypassed his senior year of high school and college to play on the Asian and European tours. Na had six top-10 finishes in 2003 on the Asian tour, but other professionals say it’s rare that a young golfer like Na can find success so soon after making the transition from amateur golf to professional.

    “”Most of them just aren’t good enough,”” said PGA veteran Corey Pavin, a graduate of UCLA. “”You have to be able to play at a consistent level. A lot of young golfers have trouble shooting the lower scores consistently.””

    Na has shown he belongs on tour, recording an average 18-hole score of 69.6. Last year, he made the cut in 12 of 14 European events, and in his three events this year, Na has made the cut twice.

    “”I’m just going to have to work hard,”” Na said about finding success on the PGA Tour. “”It will be difficult for me Ö but since I’ve played two years of professional golf and then got on the tour, that will be an advantage for me.””

    In addition to battling the 7,607-yard South Course of Torrey Pines, the weather for the weekend calls for strong winds. During the opening round of the tournament on Feb. 12, the forecast predicts 10 to 15 mile-per-hour winds coming off of the ocean, and that trend is expected to continue through Feb. 15, forcing players to hit lower shots out on the course.

    “”Tee shots will be important, and so will the height and spin of each shot because of the strong winds,”” said golfer K.J. Choi, who has been playing on the PGA Tour since 2000.

    All 156 players in the field will have a chance to battle the wind on the first two days of the Buick Invitational. Each golfer will play one of the two opening rounds on Torrey Pine’s North Course, and the other on the lengthier, more challenging South Course. Then, after the cut is made before the start of the third round, the remaining players will play the final two days of the tournament on the South.

    Buick Invitational tickets for any day of the tournament can be bought for $12 at the Price Center box office, while they will be sold for $20 at the gate on the first two days, and for $25 on Feb. 14 and Feb. 15.

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