Golf

Chambers Bay playing fast, firm with U.S. Open days away

Baking under another day of uninterrupted sun, Chambers Bay continued to change colors Tuesday.

And show sharper teeth.

Two weeks ago, the links-style golf course for the 115th U.S. Open was as green as St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin. Now, she is turning a coppery brown.

Unless a monsoon unexpectedly blows through the South Sound, it strongly appears the USGA will have Chambers Bay right where it wants it when the championship tees off Thursday.

It will be faster and firmer than any national open in history.

“It’s really like playing a (British) Open Championship,” world No. 1 golfer Rory McIlroy said, “in the United States.”

The golfers still have one more practice day Wednesday to take stock of the changing Chambers Bay conditions.

WIND

For the most part, even for the golfers who came in last week for a sneak peek of Chambers Bay, the conditions have been serene.

But Tuesday morning, an overcast lingered over the course. And the winds kicked up — at least enough to throw the field another curveball.

“I’ve been able to play the course in a couple of different wind conditions, which I think is important,” McIlroy said. “The north wind is going to come back for a couple of days over the tournament. So to be able to play the course in that wind … was good for preparation.”

Tiger Woods, who came up to Chambers Bay for preview rounds the week of the Memorial Tournament, said the wind swirls in two distinct directions — out of the southwest, and out of the northwest.

“It plays dramatically different,” Woods said. “It’s just amazing how much it plays differently. It’s like a links course in that regard, for sure.”

But how much will the wind really impact scoring?

Michael Putnam, who grew up in University Place, said he’s been constantly asked about how blustery Chambers Bay can get.

And the answer is simple — a maximum of 10-15 mph.

“Guys were preparing for 30-40 mph winds,” Putnam said. “They thought it was more like Pebble (Beach), or any links golf course in Scotland.

“They figured if it was on water, it would be windy. But it isn’t on the ocean. It is just on (Puget Sound).”

FAST AND FIRM

Big hitters who can leave themselves wedge approach shots into greens on courses that tip out at 7,900 yards naturally have some advantage for scoring.

But the way the fairways have firmed up this week, medium- to short-length hitters off the tee won’t be as penalized, Phil Mickelson said.

“Two weeks ago, I thought (long hitters had an advantage),” Mickelson said. “But after playing it today, I don’t think that it matters. The course is playing so fast and firm, there are three drives that I can think of that distance is going to be a factor.

“Holes I was hitting drivers on two weeks ago (in a preview round), I was hitting 3-woods and even 2-irons. So I don’t see that being as critical.”

Australia’s Jason Day pointed to how much faster the course plays in the afternoon from the morning.

“Just how quick and firm the greens are in the afternoon, and how the pace in the morning is a lot slower,” Day said. “The firmness of the greens are a lot slower, even on the fairways as well.”

There is a word that both McIlroy and countryman Graeme McDowell have thrown around to describe full-title, fast-and-firm conditions.

“Incredibly … fiery,” McDowell said. “It’s as pure a links golf course as I think I’ve ever seen on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.”

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