Torrey Pines ready for San Diego Open golf tourney


Lack of a sponsor not a deterrent

No Tiger, no sponsor, no problem.

At least that’s the Century Club’s outlook as it gets set to put on the 58th San Diego Open, formerly known as the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines.

“I am not ceding any economic value or any economic benefit,” said Century Club President and General Chairman Tom Wornham. “We’re going to have a great tournament.”

The Open, which officially begins competitive play on Jan. 28, canceled the Saturday pro-am tournament after only selling two amateur spots. It also cut ticket prices and increased the age of free child admission to 15 with any paid adult. Still, Wornham said he again expects a similar $30 million impact to the San Diego region — “even in a year like this.

“Remember people don’t come because it’s Buick, people didn’t come because it was Andy Williams, people come because it’s La Jolla and San Diego. They don’t care what it’s called.”

Century Club executives say the event’s attendance, which dipped in rainy 2009, will again be weather dependent.

“The tournament goes on without Tiger and I think last year shows us that,” said Bill Evans, who owns the Torrey Pines Lodge.

Woods, champion from 2005 to 2008, missed last year’s Buick Invitational due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Instead, it was Nick Watney taking the title.

“It’s one of the best spots in the world,” the Sacramento native said via telephone during a Monday morning press conference. “The weather and scenery — it’s definitely special to me and I mean who knows maybe I’ll end up buying a house here later in life or something.”

Regardless of the attendance, Wornham said the national broadcast of the tournament would provide perhaps the biggest boost to San Diego.

“You’ve got how many hundreds of millions of people who are freezing their ears off around the country, looking at this thing on TV,” he said, adding that the Open has been the top-rated non-major golf tournament 15 of the past 20 years. “And when you’re looking at the beautiful cliffs of Torrey Pines and La Jolla as that blimp pulls back on that shot, it adds a lot.”

Century Club executives are still hopeful they will find a title sponsor for this year, but say they will certainly have one for 2011.

San Diego Open

The tournament’s practice rounds on Jan. 25 are free and open to the public. Competition runs through Jan. 31, with the final round commencing at 8:30 a.m. that Sunday.