The hype is ramping up for the US Open at Chambers Bay. Why? Because, it is being billed as completely unusual – staged on a young course, a municipal course, in Northwest US (normally Open’s are stage in the Northeast – and, this feels like it also implies; the wild west, bereft of golf culture and history), on a linksy course, etc., etc.
At a recent media day event, USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said it would be important for the players to visit Chambers Bay before the Open, to have a chance at victory in the event. The media loves to create controversy. And, statements like this one, provide a perfect springboard.
The players fire back
“That might be the single stupidest thing I’ve ever heard somebody say about a golf course, said Jimmy Walker.” Other players chimed in with similar comments, adding that it is irrational to think players would travel all the way there, to simply scout the course.
Some of this banter is typical for US Open, one of the prestigious events the USGA hosts each year. US Open’s are staged on different venues each year, making the golf course set-up a subject often debated. Still, regardless of the golf course, the USGA has it’s preferred golf course set-up “tournament formula” (narrow and soft fairways, high rough, fast/receptive greens, perfect sand bunkers – that’s pretty much it in a nutshell). It applies this formula to every championship course. (2014 at Pinehurst being the biggest deviation). And, this is why Chambers Bay is providing controversy; it’s original design does not conform to the USGA tournament formula. Chambers Bay is designed to play like a links course with wide fairways and very little rough (according to Jay Blasi, one of CB’s designers), and fast and firm surfaces.
The good news for the US Open contestants is: During the past four years, the USGA has been studying, tweaking, making modifications and renovating Chambers Bay. Additionally, they have been managing the maintenance, so by the time the pro’s arrive, the “linksiness” of CB will be mostly remedied. To the best of their ability, this “unique” US Open venue, will look and play like other US Open venues. And, all this angst about; the golf course, how the players will receive it, etc, etc. – will be much ado about nothing. The Fescue, sustainability, reduced inputs, natural, fast and firm, ground game, etc. message, intended as a departure from normal US Open venues and an example of golf’s evolving and embracing something new – – has been renovated and groomed into submission.
Oh, we will see some squabbles and hear some whines. We might even see a PGA superstar burst into flames. (I don’t see how anyone playing four rounds at Chambers Bay isn’t going off the rails at some point!) But, all of this is part of the drama – real and/or contrived.
What we know for sure is; When the US Open winner is crowned again this year, just like in Shakespeare’s famous play by the same name (Much Ado About Nothing) pardons will issued and the golf world will dance, and celebrate, and; be reunited in love again…