Chambers Bay a 'dream' U.S. Open venue for Davis
June 17, 2015
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- USGA executive director Mike Davis, left, will have fun setting up Robert Trent Jones Jr.'s course this week. (Harry How/Getty Images)
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. -- Chambers Bay is a golf course with an identity crisis.
The Robert Trent Jones Jr. course is hosting the 115th U.S. Open this week. In looks and playability, though, Chambers Bay more closely resembles its links cousins in the United Kingdom.
"There are some that would say what are you doing in the United States (is) conducting a British Open," USGA executive director Mike Davis said. "There are others that don't know what to think, other than it's very unique."
What's important to the USGA, though, is to showcase some of the best courses in the United States. And while Chambers Bay, built over a gravel mine on the banks of the Puget Sound, is barely a decade old, the links has quickly created a cachet for itself.
And while this U.S. Open won't look like your father's U.S. Open, the test Chambers Bay will offer this week is the same that can be found at more traditional USGA picks like Oakmont and Merion.
"We are going to remain true to really what a U.S. Open is and what it's been, which is a great comprehensive test of shot-making skills, course management skills, ability to handle your nerves, and I think truly anybody that's walked this, there's a bit of an endurance test, as well," Davis said.
"So I'll also say that to come to a brand-new golf course is neat."
Below are some of the more interesting takeaways from the USGA's annual press conference on Wednesday:
2015 U.S. Open Championship Preview Show
• The purse is $10 million, which matches this year's PLAYERS Championship and the 2014 PGA. The winner's share will be $1.8 million.
Consider this: Whoever wins this U.S. Open will earn $100,000 more than what the entire purse was in 1994. Ernie Els won his first of two U.S. Opens that year and pocketed just $320,000.
• Chambers Bay, which has multiple teeing grounds on every hole, will play to a par of 70 but its yardage will range between 7,300-7,700 yards, Davis said. "So to put that in perspective, if we play the back tees on every hole, you would be over 7,900 yards. It was never our intent to play that long."
• Two configurations of par 70 will be used depending on whether the first hole or the 18th hole is a par 5 that day. When the first hole is a par 5 the nines will play 36-34. When the 18th is a par 5, the two nines will each be par 35.
"The way the architects designed the holes, truly they did it with flexibility in mind," Davis said. "And we looked at it and said these holes are great played as both a 4 and a 5. They're two completely different drive zones if both holes played 4 and 5. The greens can be very severe and almost add the element of risk and reward with hole locations. ...
"There's going to be a hundred yard difference playing between a 5 and 4 on those holes. We'll have other holes where it will actually be more than a hundred yard difference, but we won't change the par. Think of it this way, those two holes are really a par 9, but we're going to give that trophy to the lowest 72-hole score. Whatever the par is in some ways is irrelevant."
• Davis says the winds will be shifting from the southwest on Friday, which is the predominant wind, to northly for the weekend. He expects it to be a one- to 1 1/2-club wind. "But it will be interesting because it's going to show this golf course very differently. And from a player's standpoint, getting a southwest wind versus a north wind, some holes literally play almost opposite."
• The fescue greens, laced with some poa annua, are the largest ever played at a U.S. Open. The speed will top out at between 11 1/2 and 12 on the Stimpmeter --- which takes into account the fact that the putting surfaces will actually speed up (as much as 8-9 inches) as the day progresses.
• The firmness of the golf course will be monitored daily. Toward that end, fairways and tees have been watered in the evenings. A firmness meter that measures bounce on the greens has also been used -- with measurements taken in 30 or 40 different locations.
"It is such a great thing to be in this position," Davis said. "You kind of wake up and you dream of this saying, let us control it, don't give us a bunch of water so they're throwing darts at the greens. And we've got it. But now it's our job to make sure we manage that firmness appropriately."
• The pace of play on such a challenging course with extreme elevation changes has also been a concern. As Sunday's summer solstice nears, the sun rises here at 5:13 a.m. PT and sets at 9:08 p.m. PT -- and that daylight will be crucial during the first two rounds.
Davis said the first few groups of the morning and afternoon waves will be expected to play in four hours and 45 minutes. Obviously, as the course becomes fully populated, that time increases.
"We will be proactive with a call-up policy on if we need it on par 3s or par 4s or par 5s that might be able to hit -- in the case of par-4s, drivable, and par 5s in 2," Davis said, adding that there will be a walking referee with each group. "We will use that on an as-needed basis.
"We all know this is a tough walk in Chambers Bay."