The shimmering waters of Puget Sound and the lone tree towering over the 15th green will go down among the iconic images of the 115th U.S. Open.
But so might the Fox television shot of a Brandt Snedeker putt where the ball was shown rolling across the 15th green, then popping into the air before returning to earth and resuming the ground-transportation portion of its journey.
That shot from the final round captured the criticism of the Chambers Bay greens that had become a daily feature of the tournament.
On Friday, Henrik Stenson said the greens looked like broccoli.
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On Saturday, Rory McIlroy picked cauliflower.
On Sunday, Billy Horschel, Ian Poulter and others ran out of vegetables but not complaints.
“Obviously there’s going to be a great champion crowned today and everyone will be happy,” Horschel said. “But we don’t complain a lot. … And when we do, I think we really need to be taken seriously on this. I think a lot of players, and I’m one of them, have lost some respect for the USGA and this championship this year for the greens.”
Poulter, who finished 11 over, took to Instagram, where he posted a picture and called the greens “simply the worst most disgraceful surface I have ever seen on any tour in all the years I have played.”
Among those with a personal stake in the reality and the criticism of the greens was Darin Bevard, director of agronomy for the USGA.
“I have great respect for all these guys out there,” he said at the start of the Sunday rounds. “They’re the best in the world at what they do. So if someone who is a great professional golfer says something, people like to listen, and rightfully so. But … pick your greens: They don’t make every 12-footer they look at there either, whether they’re rolling smooth or not. I think some of it is the snowball rolling down the hill effect.”
While the U.S. Open golfers are among the best in the world at what they do, so are those tending to a U.S. Open course. But for all that expertise and experience, Bevard admits the greens were of inconsistent quality as the fine fescue won some battles and the poa annua won others.
“Some people have criticized the greens in a very professional and objective manner,” he said. “Others have used words like ‘embarrassing,’ and ‘horrible,’ which I think is a little over the top. It doesn’t bother me.
“But I can tell you, you’ve got 30 guys over in that maintenance facilities that have worked their butts off to get to this point; and a bunch of volunteers and everything else. Those are the guys who I feel bad for — especially Eric Johnson (Chambers Bay director of agronomy) and Josh Lewis (golf course superintendent) because they’ve done a fantastic job for us. It’s a little bit unfair to them.”
Bevard also stressed that the condition of the course will matter to the golfers of Pierce County and those drawn from around the world, long after these pros are off to their next tournament.
“When we stand here right now and talk about the U.S. Open on Chambers Bay, on Monday it isn’t going to be the U.S. Open on Chambers Bay anymore, it’s going to be what’s best for Chambers Bay and the golfers who play here on a daily basis,” he said. “So I think that’s what they need to look at.”