We have finally reached the month of June, which can only mean one thing, the U.S. Open is upon us. We are only a few weeks away from the second major of the year, but controversy is already brewing surrounding the venue of Chambers Bay. Chambers Bay opened just eight years ago and was the previous location of an old mining site. The course wasn’t even in existence a decade ago, yet now it’s hosting its first U.S. Open. It will be the first U.S. Open played in the Pacific Northwest and also the first one played on fescue greens, which has led to mixed emotions among TOUR pros.
Many guys have already voiced their frustration with the course and then there are those who have no idea what to expect. “As far as the greens are concerned, it’s not a championship golf course,” said Ryan Palmer. And it’s not a controversy until Ian Poulter chimes in. “Well several players have played Chambers Bay in prep for U.S. Open. The reports back are it’s a complete farce. I guess someone has to win,” the Englishman had to say. The governor of Seattle fired back at Poulter, threatening to assess a two-stroke penalty to “someone who wears purple-check pants who’s never played the course.”
But then there are those guys who have played the course and have grown fond of it, like Michael Putnam who lives half a mile from the course and even opened it up, playing the first round of Chambers Bay.
"“If you’re going there expecting a British Open or a PGA Championship course, then you’ll do all right. The U.S. Open is usually on tree-lined courses, with firm and fast greens — not fescue for sure — and more of a traditional American-style golf course, whereas Chambers Bay is not that.”"
22-year old rookie sensation Justin Thomas made it to the round of 32 in match play at the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay and is among those who are a fan. “It’s very similar to a British Open. You have to be creative and you have to use your imagination. I like having a chip shot and you can’t go directly at the pin. It’s fun, because you’ve got to get a little creative. It’s a great tract and I hope there are more people who love it (than hate it).”
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USGA executive director Mike Davis has fired back at those who don’t think Chambers Bay is up U.S. Open standards. Davis is a strong believer that knowledge of the course before entering the Open will be just as important as a solid short game.
"“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,” Davis said. “Will not win the U.S. Open.”"
This alone got golfers fired up, Jimmy Walker in particular. “That might be the single stupidest thing I’ve ever heard someone say about a golf course. Less than half the field has even been set and he wants us to rush up there.”
Those who seem to be taking note of Davis’ comments are Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, who made recent trips to Chambers Bay. Woods’ private jet was spotted at the airport near the course, while Mickelson made the trip last Thursday. “Glad I spent some time here,” Mickelson said. “A very interesting course.”
Davis has also considered the possibility of having tee boxes set up on uphill and downhill slopes, which has never been seen in a major before, let alone a regular TOUR event. “In some cases we may end up putting tee markers on slight slopes,” Davis said. “There may be some where we give the players a little downhill slope, a little uphill slope, a side slope. So that’s interesting.”
Interesting is one way to describe it. Ryan Palmer had another way to put it. “(Davis’) idea of tee boxes on down hills, up hills and side hills is ridiculous. That’s not golf. I don’t care what anybody says,” Palmer said. “It will get a lot of bad press from the players. It is a joke. I don’t understand it. I just don’t know why they would do it.”
Another bold move Mike Davis revealed was changing the pars on the first and 18th holes as the tournament progresses on a round-to-round basis. In addition to the strange moves being made, your normal U.S. Open would have tight fairways lined with trees, but Chambers Bay only features one tree on the whole course…and it’s not even in play.
If you couldn’t already tell, this isn’t going to be your traditional U.S. Open, but that’s what will make it even sweeter. The best golfer will not win this tournament, but rather, the most creative golfer. It will be the most unique U.S. Open we have ever seen, and I personally cannot wait to see craziness that will take place. May the best man win.