Signature Hole: Torrey Pines #18 has more than a little history
The 18th hole on the Torrey Pines South course is a nifty little par-5 where the pros certainly expect to have a chance at birdie, maybe even eagle. It plays about 550 yards and the green is fronted by a pond known as Devlin’s Billabong. While not overly long by today’s PGA Tour standards, the hole is narrow and tree-lined, so drives need to be in the fairway to provide a reasonable chance of hitting the green in two. Over the years, the 18th has been the site of some memorable moments.
In 1975, Australian Bruce Devlin came to the 72nd hole with a chance of catching leader Tom Watson with a birdie. Here’s how he describes what happened next, “I hit a pretty good drive on the last hole, just missed the fairway by about a foot on the right-hand side in the first cut. So, I had a beautiful, cushy lie. And I was, I guess, 215 to 220 to the front of the green and I decided it was just a perfect high 4-wood and I hit the most gorgeous 4-wood that I’ve hit in a long time, in my opinion. Anyhow, it actually hit on the bank, about 15 feet in front of the flag and looked like it was going to stay there. And I think I took one step towards the green and the ball started trickling down the bank and it went back in the water. And that was the first time that they’d had a lake in front of the green at Torrey Pines. So, I went in there and looked at it and thought well, I can get this out. So, I waded my way into the into the lake and I whacked it once and it moved about a foot to the right and I hit it again, it moved about a foot to the right. And on my seventh one, I was able to get it out of the water. And then I holed it from about 25 feet for a 10.” And since that time the pond has been called Devlin’s Billabong. Billabong comes from the Wiradjuri people of New South Wales in Australia and refers to a pond or small lake.
Tiger vs Rocco
Tiger’s history in the majors is well documented but the 2008 U.S. Open featured a playoff between a hobbling Tiger Woods and 45-year-old Rocco Mediate, who was looking to become the oldest first time major champion and the oldest U.S. Open champion. On the final hole, Tiger needed to make a 15-footer to tie Rocco. “Unbelievable”, said Mediate. “I knew he’d make it.” In the ensuing Monday playoff, Tiger dashed Rocco’s hopes of a major title as he added his own 14th major championship.
Phil the Phlash
In 2011, Phil Mickelson came to the final hole needing eagle to tie. Faced with a 60-yard approach, Phil had caddie Jim “Bones” McKay go ahead to the green and pull the pin. Phil’s lob wedge shot looked good for a while but never really scared the hole. Not the finish Phil wanted but another Mickelson Moment and more history at the 18th hole.
In 2016, Spaniard Jon Rahm came out of Arizona State University as the world’s #1 ranked Amateur and labelled as a can’t miss superstar on the PGA Tour. Armed with power, a deft short game and brilliant putting, the only thing holding him back initially was a temper that at times got the best of him. His first season on Tour was just a partial one but saw him contend a few times and post some high finishes. In January 2017, Rahm made a 60-foot eagle putt from the back of the 18th green to win the Farmer Insurance Open for his first PGA Tour title.
In 2021, Rahm was leading the Memorial Tournament by six shots after three rounds when he was forced to withdraw after a positive COVID test. Two weeks later, with the U.S. Open back at Torrey Pines, Rahm finished birdie-birdie to capture his first major championship. His curling 15-footer on the final hole was punctuated by an epic fist pump. Rahm dedicated his win to the late Seve Ballesteros.
Rahm comes into the 2023 Farmers Insurance Open as the hottest player in professional golf, having won four of his last six starts and two in a row on the PGA Tour. Maybe there’s another chapter to be written with Jon Rahm’s name on it.
Whether it’s Jon Rahm or someone else, there’s sure to be a few exciting moments on Torrey Pines’ 18th hole.