After the galleries have retreated and the blimp sailed away, the winners have been toasted and the losers uttered their final damnations, Chambers Bay Golf Course needs one addition.
If they’re really lucky, they’ll be forging a plaque to plant in the ground, something permanent, maybe in brass, that starts out: On this spot, on June 21, 2015 …
Because if the competition spurs something extraordinary enough to require an historical marker, it will mean that the 115th U.S. Open at Chambers Bay was blessed with the one thing that will make it special, memorable, infinite: A certifiable magical moment that will forever define it.
It is already unavoidably unique as the first U.S. Open in the Pacific Northwest. And its scenic layout is an unusual combination of a links course with an extreme BMX track.
But “unique” does not mean great, or memorable.
Chambers needs to be more than different and picturesque, it needs to bring something out of the best golfers. It needs to coax greatness from someone.
Golf tournaments are cemented into historical context by the theater of the competition. These are the moments forever replayed on highlights, and come to be synonymous with the course itself.
The stronger that image, the more likely Chambers is to enhance its status as a site worthy of hosting more major events, perhaps another Open.
Think that’s reaching? Look at the comments from USGA president Tom O’Toole when announcing the selection of Torrey Pines as site for the 2021 Open. “We could not be any more excited about the concept of returning … to Torrey Pines, which in 2008 saw one of the most historic and most exciting finishes in U.S. Open history.”
Exactly. The images are still fresh to golf fans, who watched Tiger Woods drag a bad leg around 91 holes before finally topping Rocco Mediate in sudden death after a full extra playoff round.
Maybe somebody can match the drama of Tom Watson’s birdie chip-in on No. 17 at Pebble Beach in 1982 to beat Jack Nicklaus.
Or maybe there’s a playoff like Lee Trevino and Nicklaus at Merion in 1971, or Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in ’62 at Oakmont.
Or maybe the winner has to overcome the atmosphere as well as the field, as Ken Venturi did at Congressional in 1964, almost withering from dehydration in 100-plus heat.
Maybe the weather will be the star at Chambers, too, perhaps showing up as a howler funneling through the Narrows like the one that shook Galloping Gertie down to its cofferdams.
Maybe somebody colorful appears out of nowhere, as John Daly did at Crooked Stick in the 1991 PGA.
Maybe it’s something extraordinarily disastrous, like Jean Van de Velde’s detonation in the 1999 British Open Championship at Carnoustie. Maybe the leader this year could over-club the par-3 No. 15 so badly it banks off the only tree on the entire course.
Some enticing possibilities exist. Phil Mickelson has finished second in six U.S. Opens without a win — the only missing major title in what would be a career Grand Slam. The unusual Chambers terrain could be the perfect canvas for Mickelson’s creativity and shot-making ability.
Tiger Woods hasn’t won a major in seven years. Wouldn’t he and Mickelson make a memorable final group walking up the 18th fairway on Sunday?
Speculation holds that the physical demands of the Chambers layout will favor the young and fit. And that could turn this into a defining showdown between 26-year-old Rory McIlroy, who already has four major titles, and 21-year-old Jordan Spieth, this year’s Masters titlist.
Let’s get greedy, maybe the weekend of the Chambers Bay open will showcase a rare confluence of golf’s generational icons.
It’s happened before, at Cherry Hills in the 1960 Open, when the waning Ben Hogan contended at minus-2 heading into the final round, but a Palmer in his prime charged from seven strokes off the pace to win by two strokes over a rising amateur named Nicklaus.
Maybe it’s McIlroy and Spieth, as well as Mickelson, or maybe even a revived Woods.
Yes, that would do it.
Chambers Bay wouldn’t just be the course with unusual terrain covered in fescue, but a links course forever linked to a moment in golf history.