Chambers Bay, 2015 US Open Site, Covered In A Rare Snow Is Gorgeous

There’s something about a beautiful blanket of snow that makes a golf course stand out — especially if it’s at a place where snow isn’t common.

Our most recent example is 2015 U.S. Open host Chambers Bay, which was blanketed with snow and closed to the public on Friday. Chambers Bay, located in University Place, Wash., — 38 miles from Seattle — isn’t used to this kind of weather. Sure, it receives a ton of rain, but Seattle gets less than seven inches of snow per year. (This also happened to Chambers in 2011.)

But what a difference a day makes? Chambers Bay’s official Twitter account tweeted that just eight hours later the snow was all gone and the course would be open the following day. The golf spikes don’t have to be put away for too long.

Courtesy of golfwire

Four Ways Chambers Bay Can Get Another U.S. Open

us-open-chambers bay

Sad reality: if Cameron Smith wins the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay this column is moot. Etch Jordan Spieth’s name on the trophy, send a new golfing superstar headed to St. Andrews with a Grand Slam on his mind and highlight a finish for the ages. Voila! Legendary U.S. Open venue.

After a week of so many ups and downs, does Chambers Bay have a major championship life going forward? You bet.

But the place needs to address a few big ticket issues. And there is time. The USGA is committed or close to committing to U.S. Open venues through 2023, with likely trips to more classics in 2024-25.

– Embrace The Region. A vibrant sports town supported the event with exuberance. SeaTacians are not to blame for the lack of grandstand seating throughout the course or that the fake dunes were too fake to be used as stadium mounds. Bulldoze the multiple unnecessary “hummocks” blocking-views and commit to building more grandstands.

– Get There In More Style. Nearly all concerns about commuting to the course did not become an issue other than understandable complaints about the shuttle ride length. For all the talk of trains, figure out the how to deliver 5000 fans each day. And remind everyone that Seattle/Tacoma proved great hosts cities that welcomed visitors with open arms.

Related: The winners and losers from Chambers Bay

– Tweak The Course. Yes, the fescue burned and the course is absurdly extreme in places, but Chambers Bay also rewarded a nice mix of players with just enough reward for the driver to produce a satisfying championship. The weather was superb and the setting other-worldly. But the design has issues. Turn the eighth hole and upper ninth tee areas into a par-3 course below the clubhouse, place a new par-4 8th and 9th on the lower area occupied by corporate tents. Come tournament time, play the first and eighteenth as par-5s in the championship. Then remind everyone of that epic finish and sit tight, because Chambers Bay will be remembered even more fondly in two years when the U.S. Open heads to the severe, remote and massive Erin Hills.

– Solve The Grass Issue. With most of the turf having burned up during the Open, the fescues may not be able to handle the heat and strain of a U.S. Open. Poa Annua isn’t the answer either. How about some bent in the greens mix to help prevent the understandable player complaints? The USGA has a Green Section and no shortage of cash, maybe they can handle this part.

courtesy of Geoff Shackelford (golfdigest.com)

This disjointed U.S. Open has found a unifying figure in Jason Day

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This has been a silent U.S. Open. No more. Now this is Jason Day’s Open. For three days, with galleries spread thin over Chambers Bay’s massive layout, the world’s best golfers have worked in library quiet. Not now. Not after Jason Day made a 6-foot putt at the 18th Saturday.

From the thousands in the bleachers, there came a waterfall’s roar, thunderous and rolling and promising to never end. Those fans knew what they had seen. They had seen a wonder. Jason Day may win this Open tomorrow.

The day before, Day collapsed along the 18th fairway, rose and finished the round before being helped from the course, all but carried to the players’ locker room before leaving the grounds for medical treatment. For years he has dealt with episodes of disorienting vertigo that leave him weak and ill. The question Saturday was not so much how well he would play but whether he would play at all. Yet there he was, on the 18th green Saturday, with that little putt for his third birdie in four holes.

At four-under par for the tournament, Day goes to the Father’s Day round sharing the Open lead with Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, and Brendan Grace.

Did I call it a wonder? Yes, and his mentor/caddie, Colin Swatton, said it better: “It was up there with Tiger Woods playing with a broken leg at the U.S. Open,” which, you may remember, happened in 2008, the last time Woods won a major championship.

So, please, pardon me if I confess to bias, for tomorrow I will root that Jason Day, alone, survives the inevitable train wrecks that turn Open Sundays into such guilty pleasures. We do so love to see the gods brought low with the shaking horrors that strike us every time out. And this Open certainly was on its way to becoming an Open to love. Men four-putted. Gravity allowed balls to roll into deep, dark abysses. There was weeping, gnashing of teeth, and discombobulation. Good heavens, as if to portend a hellish Sunday, smoke rose Saturday from beyond the Lone Fir, suggesting either 1) a Tacoma factory fire, or 2) Ben Martin, a morning contender, setting fire to his worldly goods after committing both a triple bogey and a quadruple on his soul-killing way to an afternoon 86.

But then came Jason Day. He had walked Chambers Bay’s hills. He had walked in the heat of a cloudless day. He was three shots out of the lead at the first tee, and if you watched him there, you wondered if he could perform even the simplest act of professional golf — tee it up. Because vertigo is associated with inner ear problems, Day moved his head slowly and carefully, as if a normal descent to put a peg in the ground would set off the waves of dizziness and nausea that have struck him before.

After 14 holes, he was one-over-par for the day and no longer a name mentioned with the leaders Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Brendan Grace.

At the par-3 15th, with a tee in one hand and a club in the other, he bent from the waist — and paused, leaning on the club. He seemed to shake his head that time, as if to re-direct whatever demons danced in his head.

“He didn’t talk much all day,” his playing partner, Kevin Kisner, said, “and that’s not like him at all. I told him if he needed help, let me know. After the seventh hole, he said he was sorry about not talking but he felt terrible. He never said anything more after that.”

At the 15th, playing at 246 yards, he put his tee shot 15 feet away. Made the putt. Made another for birdie at the par-3 17th before coming to the 18th. As Day came off the 18th, he stopped briefly to talk to a reporter. “I didn’t feel that great coming out early,” he said, “and then I felt like — I felt pretty groggy on the front nine just from the drugs that I had in my system, then kind of flushed that out on the back nine.”

For only a moment, though: “But then it kind of came back — the vertigo came back a little bit on the 13th tee box, and then I felt nauseous all day. I started shaking on the 16th tee box and then just tried to get it in, really. Just wanted to get it in.”

He had been there before, only the vertigo wasn’t as bad: “Last year I didn’t play the round after I had vertigo and this one was worse. I think the goal was just go through today and see how it goes.”

“Three birdies in the last four holes,” Kinser said. “He played unbelievable. Leading the tournament. Great. Now he can win it.”

Hope so.

courtesy of Dave Kindred (golfdigest.com)

Navigating Chambers Bay in practice a real headache

18th hole Chambers Bay

18th hole Chambers Bay

Figures this would happen at the first U.S. Open held in a state where marijuana use is legal. Practice rounds came to a grinding halt Wednesday because of slow play. Golfers don’t even know which tee to use. They’re wandering around in a daze, as if lost in space.

It’s going to be that kind of U.S. Open. The kind that tests a player’s patience and mental acuity. This is, after all, the national championship. That means you have to be physically perfect and mentally razor sharp. Or else you don’t have a chance.

That makes practice rounds at Chambers Bay unlike those at any other U.S. Open. That’s because the layout is on such a vast scale, with enormous variety and potential for wild differences in course setup from day to day. As Tiger Woods said in reference to the setup choices available to U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis, “none of the players know what Mike is going to do on the different winds and the different days.”

Consider:

Par on the first and 18th holes will shift, depending on wind and whim, with one of them always playing as a par 4 and the other always as a par 5. Small wonder that players in practice rounds are hitting their drive on the 598-yard par-5 hole, then walking up and hitting another drive from the 496-yard par-4 tee. On the 18th hole, running exactly in the opposite direction and partially sharing a fairway, they hit their finishing drive on the 604-yard par-5 18th hole, then walk up and play another drive from the 525-yard par-4 tee. Sound confusing? Just do what Rory McIlroy does.

“I like that they’re going to flip it each day,” he said, “so it retains a par 9 for the two holes.”

That’s nothing compared to the choice on the par-3 ninth hole, where two alternate tees are at right angles from one another, 250 yards apart. Good luck practicing on that one in one round. In fact, no one has tried. From the top tee, 224 yards from the center of the green, the tee shot parachutes 100 feet down to the ground. From the bottom tee, way to the right and 217 yards from the green, the shot plays 20 feet uphill. Phil Mickelson reports having hit “5- to 6-iron” from the high tee and a 5-wood from the lower one. There’s a good hole location front left that can’t be held from the high tee because of excessive slope on that side, but that works well from the low tee. And a back right spot that’s ideal from the high tee that cannot possibly be held when approached from the low tee.

Forget about divulging setup intent before the opening bell. Davis is a firm believer in keeping players on their toes and making them work hard in practice, not just physically. Davis said that players are being tested on “how they think on their feet; how their caddies think.”

That means reading the ground game and going with what the landforms allow. There will be times when the only way to hit it close will be to loft an iron crisply, with perfect spin and hope it doesn’t bounce too far on these extremely firm greens. There will be other times – due to wind, approach angle or hole location – when the only way to get it close will be to pick a spot 70 or 80 feet to the side and bank an approach shot in that runs out toward the hole.

Davis warned players of the complexity of the place and advised them to arrive early for practice rounds. Those who played here a few weeks ago played a course that was slower greener and thus less reactive than the nearly bone-dry one they are playing this week.

All of this means players will have to pay close attention to hole locations, teeing ground and the elements around the exact point at which they must land the ball. Turns out it’s going to be a severe mental test this week.

That makes Chambers Bay no arbitrary toss up. Out here, the head wins.

courtesy of Bradley S. Klein (Golfweek.com)

 

McIlroy points to unique atmosphere of Chambers Bay as motivator

Rory Mcllroy

                        Rory Mcllroy

Chambers Bay is some 2,700 miles from Augusta, Ga., but to Rory McIlroy it feels like another galaxy.

“Much quieter. There was so much hype, so much attention,” McIlroy said. “Compared to Augusta, this feels so much different.”

That’s because unlike the Masters two months ago, McIlroy won’t tee it up at the 115th U.S. Open this week with a chance to win the career Grand Slam. This U.S. Open business is old stuff; he already owns one. Thing is, if he has designs on adding a second one, McIlroy will have to go about things differently than the first time around.

Back in 2011, McIlroy overwhelmed everyone at a water-logged pin cushion called Congressional Country Club, the place so saturated that the kid from Northern Ireland zeroed in at flagsticks all week. He led by six at the halfway point, by eight at 54 holes, and cruised to a record 16-under 268 to win by eight.

Four years later, soft and soggy has been replaced by firm and fast, a change of complexion that McIlroy said suits him. But it’s here in the story that McIlroy tosses some contradictions into the mix, because though he calls Chambers Bay “a pure links golf course,” in the next breath he offers that players would be well-served to hit it far, hit it high to attack elevated greens and realize “you don’t have to run the ball on the ground.”

Akin to saying it’s pure American football, but you don’t have to tackle.

Closer to the truth is this: Chambers Bay feels like a links but will not play like a links, because as McIlroy said, the ball needs to be played in the air because of the many elevated greens. And as one astute observer reminded, “they didn’t move millions of yards of dirt to build St. Andrews,” another reminder that we need to get away from calling Chambers Bay a links.

It’s not.

No offense, young Rory, but to give him his due, let’s focus on two things.

One, the last time we brought one of these big shows to a pure links, McIlroy dominated the field to win the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool last summer.

Two, the last time we played one of these majors at a venue that felt like a links but didn’t play like a links, McIlroy overwhelmed the field to win the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.

In other words, put aside all the course descriptions and all the various parameters and keep it simple. McIlroy is the best player in the world and feels deserving of that distinction. “I’ve won more majors than anyone else in (the last few years), and I want to go out every week and try to back that up and show that,” he said.

Forget that he missed the cut in each of his last two starts: the Irish Open and BMW PGA Championship. “I think that’s just the way I’m going to be,” he said.

Focus instead on his impressive wins at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship and Wells Fargo Championship. “I’d rather in a six-tournament period have three wins and three missed-cuts than six top 10s. Volatility on golf is actually a good thing.”

As if to prove his point, McIlroy has missed the cut twice, won and been middle of the pack two other times in the last five U.S. Opens. Pure volatility, which makes this week at a question mark of a golf course even more interesting when it comes to McIlroy.

courtesy of Jim McCabe (Golfweek.com)

Like it or not? PGA Tour players and golf reviewers critique Chambers Bay prior to 2015 U.S. Open

Chambers Bay Par 3

It’s a yearly tradition: The United States Golf Association and Executive Director Mike Davis getting firmly into the psyches of the world’s best golfers. With 2015 U.S. Open host ChaIt’s a yearly tradition: The United States Golf Association and Executive Director Mike Davis getting firmly into the psyches of the world’s best golfers. With 2015 U.S. Open host Chambers Bay, the USGA voodoo appears to be well ahead of schedule.

It’s a novel, if not experimental concept for the U.S. Open, normally staged on Golden Era designs that are exclusive country clubs. With Chambers Bay, opened in 2007, the massive property that was formerly a sand and gravel quarry will draw record attendance. The course setup can change wildly day to day at the hands of the tournament committee thanks to long, ribbon tees and enormous putting surfaces.

Also unique in 2015, virtually no player will have the benefit of knowing the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design very well. The only other event it has hosted is the 2010 U.S. Amateur (2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth shot a second-day 83 and missed qualifying for match play). The USGA then took that feedback to continue to develop the ideal test for the main event in 2015.

Davis said he believes players should take it upon themselves to visit the course many times prior to the event.

“I would contend that there is no way a player will have success here at Chambers Bay unless he really studies the golf course and learns it,” Davis said at U.S. Open media day. “The idea of coming in and playing two practice rounds and just walking it and using your yardage book, that person is done, will not win the U.S. Open.”

Some tour players like 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson have scoffed at the notion they have all sorts of free time to go out of their way to study the course. Others have been less than enthused with what they’ve seen. Henrik Stenson called it a “tricked-up links course.” Ryan Palmer had the most flamboyant comments following his visit.

“(Davis’) idea of tee boxes on down hills, up hills and side hills is ridiculous,” Palmer told USA Today’s Steve DiMeglio. “That’s not golf. I don’t care what anybody says. It will get a lot of bad press from the players. It is a joke. I don’t understand it. I just don’t know why they would do it.”

Chambers Bay rated by the daily-fee golfer

Whether or not the tour pros love the venue, regular golfers can revel in the fact Chambers Bay is the latest addition to the USGA’s shift toward publicly accessible U.S. Open venues. But the caveat is that the course has been under a watchful eye of the USGA and constantly tweaked and renovated ever since opening. Temporary greens and other operational interruptions, due in part because Chambers is wall-to-wall fescue grass, which can be tougher to manage than bent grass in the Pacific Northwest, have been a common occurrence, which some golfers haven’t been too happy about after plunking down $150-$200 or more for a round.

On Golf Advisor, Chambers Bay has had 14 reviews since summer 2013. (I played the course back in 2009 as part of a jaunt from Harding Park to Bandon Dunes to Chambers Bay.)

The most negative review on Golf Advisor came in June 2014 from golfer theonlybfc. He felt like a second-class citizen due to nets protecting parts of the fairways and four temp greens and awarded the experience one star.

“The greens were in worse shape than any muni course I have ever played,” he wrote. “Caddy said that we would be seeing seven different green speeds throughout the day, and he was right.”

Perhaps due to a full summer of added grow-in, reviews for the remainder of 2014 were very positive, with little mention of condition issues. Golf Advisor’s own Mike Bailey awarded the experience five stars. Golfer JLandenburg was a staunch defender of Chambers:

“This course is an incredible opportunity to learn a new kind of golf,” the single-digit handicapper wrote. “But many here are simply too closed minded to get it.”

courtesy of Brandon Tucker (golfadvisor.com)