Dave Boling

Chambers Bay: Young greens, they do get woolly

All those golfers making snide remarks about Chambers Bay sound like such whiny babies.

This is a great test of golf talent, played at an incomparably scenic location, with conspicuously outstanding fan and volunteer support.

And the end result should accomplish exactly what the U.S. Open is designed to do: identify the best golfer.

The varied demands of Chambers, in addition, should also pinpoint the most mentally strong, emotionally stable and physically fit.

But don’t discount the complaints about the course, because some of the beefs are legitimate, particularly when it comes to the condition and composition of the greens.

It goes without saying that nobody likes to putt across greens that look like a patch of broccoli.

To pro golfers, for whom a few wayward putts can mean the difference in many thousands of dollars, the desire for a smooth surface is understandable.

While their point is fair, their grousing is self-defeating and a diversion from the real task: adapting to the course you’re playing.

It’s U.S. Open Darwinism, doled out Chambers Bay style.

Golf is such a psychological Rorschach. New challenges, under the pressure of competition, reveal a golfer’s nature.

If they complain or pass the blame for a bad shot onto the course designer, the superintendent, their caddie or somebody in the gallery, they likely won’t have the steely resolution it takes to become a major tournament champion.

Even if the greens are dubious, everybody is playing on the same surface. It’s not going to change for you. You have to change your game to suit the circumstances.

Agronomy debates don’t make stimulating reading, but here’s a brief review: The widely discussed greens of “fine fescue” were touted as running straight and true.

But some of these greens have “poa annua” grass in them, too — some more than others. And that’s an issue in a couple regards: It grows at different rates and reacts to dryness differently. It makes the surface inconsistent from green to green, and more irregular as the day wears on.

Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA, told Fox broadcasters that one of the issues is that the two grasses have different colors, causing golfers to be bothered by the “aesthetics.”

Yes, they look awful, particularly in the afternoon. But nobody who has watched this tournament is going to believe that is the only problem. When golfers can’t put good pace on a putt, the balls are sometimes getting bounced around and knocked off path.

Even the players who are scoring well will acknowledge that.

After his first round, when he extolled the course, Phil Mickelson mentioned the inconsistencies in the surface of various greens. “That’s going to wreak havoc on our touch,” Mickelson said. “And that’s the only thing I could possibly think of that is not really positive.”

After making an 11-foot eagle punt on No. 1, Louis Oosthuizen held up his ball and pantomimed to his caddy the jagged path the ball made toward the cup.

Henrik Stenson also offered some level-headed commentary after he rolled to a first-round 65. The practice green was much quicker than the greens on the course, he said, and from one hole to the next, you can’t judge pace based on what you saw on previous holes.

“You have to go with your feeling,” he said. “You have to take the rough with the smooth, and keeping a level head is going to be the key to success.”

Exactly. Well said. You have to take the rough with the smooth.

And the greens have not been the smoothest part.

It probably should be expected that a course as young as Chambers Bay (8 years old) needs time to ripen. Greens are the toughest part of that delicate process — learning what grasses work, how they can be best treated, and how the varied weather conditions affect their condition.

Chambers will be better when it matures. Every course is.

Complaining about it doesn’t help the golfers.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have some valid points.

Related stories from Tacoma News Tribune