First, he let it be known to the media on hand that he will not become part of the ownership team of his hometown Padres. Citing an inability at the current time to make the long-term commitment to the MLB team he feels is needed, he won't join the group headed by members of the O'Malley family and San Diego businessman Ron Fowler. But his main reason for showing up on a blustery night was to ensure the golfers on hand that local treasure Torrey North will not be drastically changed by the renovation work.
"Torrey North is the golf course that people enjoy," said Mickelson to a crowd of about 75, a dozen or so of whom took the mike afterwards to address their concerns about the changes, which won't be in place until the summer of 2015. "Torrey South is hard," he noted. "It is a hard golf course. It beats me up. It's long and it's tough, and (its redesign a decade ago) accomplished the goal of bringing a U.S. Open here to San Diego, and that's pretty cool.
"But we need to have an option that lets everybody play, and that's Torrey North."
He noted the severely pitched greens as one factor that makes the tamer North Course more difficult than it should be for the average golfer, the mainstay of North clientele (70 percent of whom are from San Diego) now that the South Course is so tough.
"We can make the golf course playable and still challenging for the good player," the three-time Masters champ said. "That baffles a lot of people, like 'how is that possible?' There are golf courses that have done that."
One way to do that is to allow that higher handicapper to bump and run shots to the pin and not have to fly it there over massive traps fronting the green. That would include moving bunkers to the left and right of greens rather than having them in front of or behind the putting surface.
Making the course longer also would not help, barely affecting the good golfer—like the PGA Tour pros who play a round on the North at the Farmers Open—while making it harder and slowing play for the average player.
Mickelson envisions at least one drivable par-4 on each side as well as a pair of par-3s of 150 yards or less on the course. He also mentioned bringing the canyon/coastal terrain surrounding the course closer to the golfer, eliminating some grassy areas and saving on watering costs by using natural vegetation.
"This is our golf course, San Diego's golf course," Mickelson said. "We want it to be something we're proud of. We want it to be something where we can bring our friends out and show off, because these views are spectacular."
The core elements of the North Course project include reconstructing all the greens, completing a cart-path system, rebuilding and relocating bunkers, repositioning forward and tournament tees, and maximizing the effectiveness of the irrigation system. The $7.8 million budgeted for the project comes out of greens fees paid at city courses.
Community members will have their next chance to comment on the project at a Jan. 10 meeting from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at an as-yet undetermined venue. Mickelson's design team hopes to have specific plans for holes one through three by that time.