As he often does when he comes out to the Pacific Northwest, USGA executive director Mike Davis took a tour Sunday of his next U.S. Open site – Chambers Bay.
Davis went out with some of the leading voices of the Fox Sports broadcast team, who also happened to be Greg Norman, Tom Weiskopf and Brad Faxon — all great professional golfers from their respective generations.
As the group went from hole to hole, the commentary from the three former PGA Tour stars grew louder — and more varied.
“Everyone has different thoughts about it,” Davis said. “It is fascinating to hear.
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“Greg was just raving about the place — loves it. He loves the unpredictably of it.”
Whether the world’s best golfers realize it yet, what is awaiting them at the upcoming 115th U.S. Open might go down as the most rigorous, comprehensive, multiple-option test of championship golf seen in a long time.
Chambers Bay is long. It is curvy. It moves in all directions. It is covered in fine fescue — a grass rarely seen in the United States. And the Scottish links-style layout has very little history for the field to draw upon.
Nearly 225 reporters got a chance to take a look at Chambers Bay, hear a lot about its background, and some of them even got to play it Monday in near-championship conditions at the annual U.S. Open media day.
“This is a bold site. It is a big site. There’s a lot of scale to this site. I’ve heard people say it’s a ‘Wow’ site,” Davis said. “It’s obviously expansive, and I say that because we don’t have anything that we play a U.S. Open on that’s remotely similar to this.”
In short, Chambers Bay, as Davis later summarized, is a “one of a kind.”
Indeed it is. The question now is how will the field of 156 golfers go about trying to learn about the course that will host the first U.S. Open ever played in the Northwest.
A few guys — Henrik Stenson, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Ryan Palmer — came out this past weekend to play Chambers Bay before heading off to the WGC-Cadillac Match Play in San Francisco.
Others from that tournament are expected travel north to play it once they are eliminated from match play.
But some, such as defending U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer, will wait until June to come to University Place to see it, play it and study it.
“You know, I’ll see it when I get there,” Kaymer said. “Obviously, I’ve got to look at past tournaments that have been played there. I will look on the internet (to see) how the shape of the holes are going to look like.
“I met with (course architect) Robert Trent Jones there at the Masters, and he gave me a few tips already. But I’m not too much into it beforehand. I’m the type of person, I go there, I create a feel for it and then maybe I walk nine holes, or walk 18 holes maybe the day before the tournament.”
As if Chambers Bay does not present enough unique characteristics, especially all the different teeing grounds for each hole, uneven fairway lies, and green-complex undulation, Davis pointed to thick rough that has recently been grown in different spots on the course to punish errant shots.
“We saw months ago there were places that we wanted some penalty that simply did not have any,” Davis said.
Davis said the collective test of Chambers Bay, given its modest history, will require a golfer’s full attention — even possibly away from U.S. Open week.
“There is no way, no way a player would have success here at Chambers Bay unless he really studies the golf course, and learns it,” Davis said. “The idea of coming in and playing two practice rounds, and having your caddie just walk it and using your yardage book – that person … will not win the U.S. Open.”