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Could Erin Hills push Chambers Bay out of US Open rotation?

The lone tree on the Chambers Bay golf course is shown at dusk. The course hosted the 2015 U.S. Open Championship but will it get another?
The lone tree on the Chambers Bay golf course is shown at dusk. The course hosted the 2015 U.S. Open Championship but will it get another? AP file, 2015

So you think the United States Golf Association wants to keep its biggest prize — the U.S. Open — as far away from Chambers Bay as possible in the future?

You are in the majority.

Those dirt-and-sandpaper greens from the 2015 U.S. Open were the culprit, right? Or how about every time a patron tried to keep up with a playing group, he or she found a roped-off, dead-end zone?

Believe it or not, these are issues that can be fixed — over time. In fact, the Chambers Bay greens are in the process of being converted from fine fescue to poa annua, a more natural grass for the northwest.

And despite blasting it with heavy criticism, some of the world’s best golfers don’t seem opposed to Chambers Bay getting a second chance — just not during their own playing careers.

What the proponents of Chambers Bay cannot control is when something else — somewhere else — is raved about more than the links-style course in University Place.

And this week, another new venue — Erin Hills — has so far been nothing short of spectacular in its U.S. Open debut.

“I have not heard one negative comment yet,” University Place golfer Michael Putnam said.

Before discussing how big the U.S. Open course rotation is, it needs to be pointed out what exactly defines that orbit.

The USGA’s rotation for the U.S. Open is multi-layered. First, there is a core group of classic venues that will host the championship every 10-12 years — Oakmont, Olympic Club, Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, Shinnecock Hills and Winged Foot.

Secondly, there is a collection of other historic courses that should expect to get a U.S. Open nod once every two decades — Merion, The Country Club, even Oakland Hills.

What has stretched the rotation is the addition of new sites in other large markets or other regions of the country.

Chambers Bay is in that final group, along with Erin Hills in Wisconsin, Torrey Pines near San Diego and Los Angeles Country Club, which will make its U.S. Open debut in 2023.

“I think (the rotation) is about right,” said 2011 British Open winner Darren Clarke, who is doing television work this week for Fox Sports. “What the USGA is trying to do is move it around the county. America has so many fabulous golf courses that is seems unfair to keep going back to the same ones.

“I can’t see any issue with why they wouldn’t make it a little bit bigger.”

Unless something unforeseen happens, Erin Hills has made such a favorable impression this week that it would be hard not to see it emerge as the USGA’s go-to venue in the Midwest for the foreseeable future.

“Erin Hills won’t be in the 10-year rotation,” Putnam said, “but it will be in the 20-year rotation.”

That can’t be the news Chambers Bay wants to hear.

But then again, given all the good that came out of the 2015 U.S. Open, capped by Jordan Spieth’s dramatic win over Dustin Johnson on the final hole, USGA executive director Mike Davis hasn’t given any inclination that the U.S. Open won’t be returning to Chambers Bay in the next two decades.

“There’s a lot of things we’re very proud about with Chambers Bay,” Davis said. “Think about the drama at the end … and that leaderboard.

“Yes, we didn’t like the quality of the greens, but that aside, there’s a lot of things to love about Chambers Bay.”

Including an endorsement from its reigning winner.

“I certainly wouldn’t mind a second chance at Chambers (Bay),” Spieth said.

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