As many hats as Mike Davis wears for the United States Golf Association -- Executive Director, course setup guy, bouncer (think Webb Simpson's TV interview at Olympic Club in 2012) -- perhaps his most valuable is the unofficial role spawned by the first two: Promoter.
Supported by the breadth of the USGA and its confidence in his talent, intellect and experience, Davis sells the U.S. Open like nobody's business. He's thinking outside the box before we're even aware of the boundaries. He's as much a risk-taker as is he playful with his rhetoric. Like any successful leader with conviction, you know exactly where you stand on an issue after learning of his opinion.
From the graduated rough of yesteryear to the doubleheader at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014, Davis and Co. ain't afraid to push the envelope. Next up on that evolutionary process is arguably the most extreme golf course in modern U.S. Open history.
Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington, west of Tacoma and hard against the Puget Sound, was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. It turns just eight years young this month. It look like a links layout, and it projects to play like one, but elevation changes, massive variations in yardage on several holes and trouble absolutely everywhere will yield frustration and high scores. It's why Davis didn't mince his words when he averred that contenders will to invest the time to study and learn as much of the nuance as they can.
The 2010 U.S. Amateur was contested here. Of the 156 committed to the 115th edition of the U.S. Open, 11 gave Chambers Bay a spin in that event, but the course itself was a test drive for this week's major. Quite a bit of work has been done since to improve playability. The U.S. Open is supposed to reveal the best golfer, so one of Davis' goals was to eliminate as much of the luck factor, particularly the bad.
This isn't just another golf tournament, but not only because it's the U.S. Open. The first word out of Chambers Bay years ago was that it was the course with no water and only one tree on it. While true, the setup could be misinterpreted as a logic problem. For example, holes 1 and 18 will play as either a par 4 or par 5, each opposing the other's par to retain overall par at 70 in every round. Only eight holes feature a singular yardage (like most courses), so there is a difference of 516 yards between the shortest and longest tees. While it won't play this long -- the maximum measurement is 7,906 yards -- Davis will have all the flexibility that he and his team needs to create angles, manufacture drama and prepare for wind.
If there's a bone thrown at the field, it's that the greens average a healthy 8,700 square feet. Still, undulations, many of which would be described as swales, shrink the targets. The wide-scale absence of knowledge of the greens favor ball-strikers and allow the opportunity for average putters to emerge. Fine fescue grass is featured throughout the property.
Patience, imagination and one's love for the challenge are unquantifiable, but they are going to be the primary assets necessary to succeed this week. And who knows, the deviation from the norm just might reset the reasons why they love to play this game.
Aside from a chance for rain early on Friday, the weather should cooperate throughout the tournament. Temperatures will climb into the upper 70s, maybe even touching 80 on Sunday. They'll be accompanied by light-to-moderate winds that may blow from a northerly direction on the weekend. The prevailing breezes come out of the west.
POWER RANKINGS: U.S. Open
1 Rory McIlroy 2 Jordan Spieth 3 Hideki Matsuyama 4 Phil Mickelson 5 Billy Horschel 6 Justin Rose 7 Rickie Fowler 8 Henrik Stenson 9 Patrick Reed 10 Brandt Snedeker 11 Jim Furyk 12 Francesco Molinari 13 Sergio Garcia 14 Jimmy Walker 15 Jason Day 16 Ryan Moore 17 Kevin Na 18 Dustin Johnson 19 Charley Hoffman 20 Brooks Koepka