Golf

They played in 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay, now they’ll try the 2015 U.S. Open

Jordan Spieth doesn’t like to reflect on his 2010 Chambers Bay memories.

It was one of the poorest outings of the 21-year-old’s young career. He shot 83 in his one competitive round of the U.S. Amateur and did not qualify for the match play portion of the tournament. The stroke play portion of the tournament played one round at the Home Course and one at Chambers Bay.

“It was a short-lived trip for me,” said Spieth, who won the 2009 U.S. Junior Amateur at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey and the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur at Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton.

“I tried to throw out the round that I shot on this course from my memories.”

But that experience puts the 21-year-old Dallas native in an exclusive club at this week’s U.S. Open. He’s one of 11 golfers in the 156-man field preparing for the U.S. Open who also played the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay five years ago.

Three of them — Byeong-Hun An, Brooks Koepka and Russell Henley — are paired together for Thursday’s first round. An finished the highest of the 11 in the U.S. Open field, reaching the semifinals.

Some said that they believe that experience — even if it was a grueling one — gives them a leg up on the rest of the field.

But that’s not to say this course is similar to the burnt one it was five years ago.

“I feel like it’s going to play a little different,” said 25-year-old Blayne Barber, who reached the round of 32 in 2010. “We were kind of guinea pigs at the Am. The course was pretty brutal. But it gives me a comfort level having some competitive rounds under my belt there.”

As if the greens at Chambers Bay aren’t fast enough, officials couldn’t get enough water on the course in 2010, making it play even faster. Some of the most well-executed shots weren’t rewarded.

USGA executive director Mike Davis said it was more difficult than they intended. After Jeff Wilson won the stroke-play portion of the event, Davis said they flooded the course to get the right firmness.

“It was much harder in 2010,” said University of Washington graduate Cheng Tsung Pan, who is playing in his first event as a PGA Tour professional after reaching the round of 64 in 2010. “That was the most brutal event of my life.”

Davis said they’ve been pouring water onto the course at nights, and they have hand watered it this week.

“Literally, after we got done with stroke play in the U.S. Amateur, we flooded the course,” Davis said. “I was not happy.”

Russell Henley said the changes have been pleasantly noticeable.

“It seems like the greens were way faster,” said the 26-year-old Henley. He, like Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Tom Hoge did not make it to match play in that event.

“I didn’t hit it very well when I played it. Now I’m starting to see how it’s a little more playable.”

But how Chambers Bay plays in a Tuesday practice round can change drastically by Thursday.

“I know it’s going to get very firm and fast on the weekend,” said Morgan Hoffmann, who reached the quarterfinals of the 2010 U.S. Amateur.

“And the USGA is probably going to change up the course a bit, but that’s to be expected. I’m sure it will catch some players by surprise.”

The 25-year-old New Jersey native said he’s confident in his course knowledge. So much so, Hoffmann said he spent Monday after his practice round relaxing on a boat in Seattle, watching some friends wakeboard.

Chambers Bay was awarded the U.S. Open in 2008. Barber said he remembers playing the U.S. Amateur and hoping by the time he was 25 he’d return for the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I remember thinking that that was hopefully going to be about the time that my career was going to start and that could be my first major,” Barber said. “For that to have materialized is pretty cool. It’s pretty surreal to be back at this place.”

And maybe one of these former Chambers Bay guinea pigs has the experience needed to win this week.

“I was excited to come back,” Spieth said. “I feel like if there’s any advantage given, it would be toward us with (former University Place teacher and Spieth’s caddie Michael Greller’s) knowledge of the place.”

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