They came to these dried scablands, this rugged terrain that turned back the pretenders, the whiners and the country-club dandies who simply couldn’t handle the challenges of these parts.
Four were tied at the start of the day, from three continents, all of them 30 or younger.
Hadn’t the Phils and Tigers heard? This is no country for old men.
And it ground them all down, one by one. Nobody made it through this 115th U.S. Open unscathed. Chambers Bay chewed them up.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Was it a fair test? Who ever told you golf was going to be fair?
Even the winner, Jordan Spieth, double-bogeyed the 17th hole and needed to see Dustin Johnson three-putt on 18 to escape a Monday playoff.
The ragged, flawed, dramatic finish was a perfect ending for a tournament that had been a week of squabbling and bellyaching.
There had been nonstop grousing about the greens and fuss over the fescue. Yes, it was awful in spots. On a putt at No. 15, Brandt Snedeker’s ball looked like a kid on a skateboard trying to go over a speed bump.
Some seemed to take the course conditions personally, as if it was out to get them intentionally. (Hey, they’ve been busting stones on this site for a long time, guys. You didn’t think you’d be exempt, did you?)
But nobody, nobody kept their cool for the whole round on Sunday.
Johnson seemed bloodless, impervious to pressure, a steely-eyed gunslinger. He led the tournament until No. 13, when he flinched, blinked and Spieth and Branden Grace (two of the 54-hole leaders) took over the lead.
Grace, a South African with a limited PGA portfolio, was tied at the start of the round and was neck and neck with Spieth until No. 16, when he drove the ball almost onto the train tracks.
And the single toughest hombre in the field was Jason Day. He collapsed on his final hole in the second round because of vertigo, and bounced back to share the lead Sunday morning.
How tough was Day? Just negotiating this course, more than seven miles of walking while being unsteady, weakened, playing a game of balance while fighting off faulty equilibrium. It was one of the great displays of athletic gumption in golf history. But he shot a 74 to tie for ninth.
Rory McIlroy made a run, but finished at even. Snedeker made a run, and finished minus-1. South African Louis Oosthuizen made the best run in memory, shooting a 6-under 29 on the back nine to finish the tournament at minus-4 after starting with a 77.
Adam Scott fired a ridiculous 64 on Sunday to get to minus-3.
They were all subplots, however, as in the end it came down to Spieth and Johnson. Spieth held it together to birdie No. 18, while Johnson missed the long eagle putt that would have won it, then the short putt that would have tied it and sent it into a Monday playoff.
That would have been wrong. Alley fights don’t end in ties, or go to playoffs.
The drama needed to end in this last hour of Pacific Rim sunlight, on the summer solstice, as the warm shadows spread across the suddenly benign terrain.
Chambers Bay was flawed and beautiful and grotesque and tough, tough, tough. The praise and criticisms were all valid.
But it was dramatic as heck, and it was great fun seeing these pros get their niblicks handed to them.
Here’s the biggest validation for the Chambers Bay U.S. Open of 2015: The best golfer won.
Spieth added this Open to his Masters win in April. He may go on to win the British and the PGA, and any number of majors in the future.
But few will be as difficult as the one he captured this week.