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Home PLENTY OF INTRIGUE AWAITS THE U.S OPEN

It remains to be seen what the upcoming U.S Open has in store for both players and fans. It is after all relatively unknown, but its reputation seems to already be preceding it. It began when Mike Davis, USGA Executive Director and the person responsible for the staging of the national championship, stated, “I would contend that there is no way, no way, a player would have success at Chambers Bay unless he really studies the golf course and learns it. The idea of coming in and playing two practice rounds and having your caddie just walk it and using your yardage book, that person's done. Will not win the U.S. Open.”

It sparked some push back from the show ponies on the PGA TOUR, who will compete on the venue for the first time next week. “As far as the greens are concerned, it's not a championship golf course. Tee to green the course is OK. It's not bad. It's a great piece of land, great scenery. Very fair off the tee. We played it soft. The greens were rolling 9s (on the Stimpmeter). If they get it rolling 10 and 12, it will be interesting. Put a quarter in the machine and go for a ride,” said Ryan Palmer to USA Today. “The green complexes are something else. With some of the pin placements, you will see some guys play it 30 yards left, 30 yards right or 30 yards long, and next thing you know you'll have a 2 footer. Or you'll be 75 feet from the pin. You have to spend so much time on the greens, practice rounds are going to take eight hours. Every green has like five or six greens on it,” he added.

“With the way the Tour is, no one is going to go out there and play ten practice rounds,” observed world #1, Rory McIlroy after his win at Wells Fargo. “I'm going to go up a little early. I'm going to play a couple practice rounds the weekend before and then I'll probably play another, you know, 18 holes. So I'll play three practice rounds. It's a bit of an unknown to most people. I think you can fall into the trap of trying to over prepare and then -- you can do all the preparation you want. At the end of the day there's going to be someone lifting the trophy at the end of the week.” 

rtjjrSo what we do know at this point is an unknown venue and some outspoken words regarding it. But who better than the architect that created it to offer some insight into what will be on display. “When the game starts, the course is the silent partner,” noted Robert Trent Jones Jr. “This course, Chambers Bay, has its own voice. Its long and fairly wide open. The 13 and 14th holes are 100 yards wide,” he continued. “As the designer, I consider myself the goalkeeper. I am the defender. If you go to the Ritz Carleton every week you know what to expect. The U.S Open course is known for being a very tough test. The USGA is unique; I consider it the priesthood of the game. It is ensconced in the sport. It has a history of providing stern tests. The times have changed with equipment, turf, etc. Golfers by definition don’t like surprises. Chambers Bay is full of surprises and Mike Davis is a master of surprises. Hopefully, the course will provide a great challenging test but as usual there will be some grumbling,” he added.

What sets Chambers Bay apart from the previous 27 venues to host the national championship is that it represents a hybrid of sorts. Golf on the PGA TOUR is predominantly played in the air. While golf in the British Isles is essentially played on the ground. Links courses, for those unfamiliar with them, are known for providing some precocious, if not unusual bounces. A well-struck shot can be punished if it lands in the wrong spot. Jones Jr has incorporated what might be the best of both worlds with the staging of the national championship at Chambers Bay.

To add to some of the intrigue on Chambers Bay and the back-story behind it, Mike Davis explains how the USGA came to selecting the site that has many talking about it before ever laying eyes on it. “I can remember roughly 10 years ago sitting in my office in Far Hills, New Jersey and the phone rang and it was one of our regional directors who happened to be based on the West Coast and said, ‘Mike, there's this site out in the Pacific Northwest that one day might be good enough to host a U.S. Open.’ I'm holding phone (thinking) I heard this before. But what was interesting about it is, number one, it was the Pacific Northwest,” he noted. Since play began for the U.S Open in 1895, it has never been to this part of the country. Davis was then informed that the property was right on the Puget Sound and almost a thousand acres. “So all of a sudden you're thinking, well, okay, we have enough land for the infrastructure,” Davis observed. “And then it's owned by the county. It's going to be public access. Which is wonderful. The fact that people are going to be able to play a U.S. Open course is something very special,” he continued. “And then the last thing was, oh by the way, it's all sand. And anybody that knows anything about golf courses knows that any golf course built on sand is always going to be better than a course built on heavy soils. This was intriguing because it's right on the water and as Bob Jones liked to say, it was a sand box out there. But this was all envisioned. This was created. Everything was really man-made. And it sure doesn't look man‑made now."

As for the element of surprise, Davis touched on a few that can be incorporated into the 115th United States Open Championship. “There are places out on the golf course where you’ve got blind shots, semi blind shots, which in and of itself is a very interesting thing. Makes you feel like you're across the pond in one of the great links courses,” Davis stated. “Easily, easily the widestchambersbay golf course we have ever played a U.S. Open on. At least going back to the 1950s when kind of the modern way to set U.S. Open came in place. And what's interesting about that is in some ways you think, well that's going to make it easier because the players don't need to be as precise off the teeing ground. But I would push back on that and say, yes, they're wider, but there's a lot of slope to these fairway, they were purposely designed to be wide, so the angles coming into these greens where you could get an advantage. I look at the 13th hole and that is 105 yards wide. To give you an idea, when we go to Winged Foot or Oakmont, fairways there may be 24 to 30, 32 yards wide. Just to put it in perspective of the difference in the width.” Looks, as they say, are often deceiving and Davis is making note of it for those that might think otherwise. “What’s very unique about Chambers Bay, relative to other U.S. Open sites, is that there are so many slopes and undulations to this property and the way it was designed. And I say that because if it's firm and fast and then you add slopes and undulations, from a player's standpoint, you really have to think your way around this golf course.”

One area in particular that will undoubtedly get a significant amount of attention is the teeing grounds. “The architect put in ribbon tees, these tees that just kind of meander. It allows us to put tee markers where we want. And in some cases we may end up putting tee markers on slight slopes as opposed to very flat areas. But there may be some where we give the players a little downhill slope, a little uphill slope, a side slope,” Davis said. This will spark plenty of passionate comments and quite likely slanted on the negative side. However, RTJ Jr offered some insight into why these ribbon tees were created in the first place. “Its been said many times that golf measures a player’s patience and character,” Jones noted. “The ribbon tees are there to allow players to make a choice. I’m not trying to make them go crazy. An uneven tee can allow for a player to hit a draw, for example,” he said. However, its quite likely many players won’t find this element of the course an exercise they enjoy even if its intended to test their creativity. “Some players will embrace it,” Jones predicted. “Those that enjoy European links courses, for example. Some players are used to having everything done for them. They’re spoiled by perfect conditions and they may find difficulties with Chambers Bay,” he added. Jones noted that the fairways at Chambers Bay have been running at the same speed as the greens lately, 9 on the Stimpmeter. It supports what Ryan Palmer reported to USA Today!

RTJ Jr also pointed out that players are going to be tested in their conditioning also around Chambers Bay. “Its a hard walk over 300 acres. There are 200-foot elevation changes they’ll walk three different times too. But its also one of the most scenic parts of the country with Puget Sound, Mount Rainier in the distance and bald eagles to occasionally spot.”

Chambers Bay is already a topic of conversation amongst players and the media leading up to the playing of the 115th U.S Open. Pretty good chance it will be once its over.