The 14th hole on the South course at Torrey Pines certainly isn’t the toughest to be found on the layout. Nor is it the most picturesque, or the one that supplies the highest drama.
The 435-yard dogleg, bending left toward a canyon that runs along the entire hole, instead holds a more esoteric distinction – as the hole that has given Tiger Woods the most trouble on a layout he’s pretty much ruled since his junior days.
In 13 starts at the Farmers Insurance Open – seven of them wins, including last year – Woods is a combined 9-over par at No. 14. That may not appear much on the surface, but consider he has made just three birdies in 38 trips through the hole.
On the other hand, Woods has 10 bogeys and a double bogey in that time frame. The pattern didn’t change much in last year’s victory, with two pars and a final-round bogey that began a skid in which Woods’ eight-shot lead with five holes to play shrank to four by the end.
“I started to lose my patience out there a little bit with the slow play,” said Woods, whose bogey from a bunker was one of two in that closing stretch, along with a double bogey at No. 15.
Factor in his 2008 U.S. Open triumph, and Woods is 12-over as a professional at No. 14 with an additional double bogey and bogey. Playoff victim Rocco Mediate, meantime, carded a bogey and two birdies at No. 14 during the U.S. Open.
Though the hole did rank as the South’s fourth-toughest two years ago (when Woods sat out), it typically lands somewhere between seventh and 11th in difficulty. Just why it bites Woods more often than others is rather elusive.
Though players need to avoid flirting with the canyon off the tee, the second shot holds the key. The green was moved closer to the canyon as part of Rees’ Jones 2001 renovation that helped Torrey Pines land the Open.
“It is designed with a lower portion flanked by elevated terraces,” Jones said at the time. “[The approach] changes every day.”
Distance control is put at a premium, with double bogeys awaiting anyone whose approach winds up over the green. There’s really no suitable miss other than perhaps short of the putting surface.
No. 14 also played as a drivable par 4 during the fourth round of the 2008 Open, utilizing a forward tee just 277 yards from the hole.
The hole also has a role in one of Torrey Pines more infamous incidents. It was there in 1987 that Craig Stadler, trying to extricate himself from a muddy lie beneath a pine tree, laid down a towel to protect his light-colored trousers as he tried a shot from his knees.
Stadler executed the shot, but an NBC replay shown the next day lit up the tournament switchboard with fans who pointed out he had violated Rule 13-3 by using the towel to “build a stance.”
The penalty meant Stadler had signed an incorrect third-round scorecard, the resulting DQ dropping him from a tie for second behind winner George Burns.