By Paul Myers
The U.S. Open is a golf tournament with a very specific reputation. Traditionally, it is contested over difficult, tree-lined courses with deep rough and brutally long par fours. The USGA takes pride in challenging the best players in the world, and the result is typically a winning score that is around even par for the week. Love it or loathe it, the U.S. Open is among the toughest tests in the world of golf.
As the 2015 version of the U.S. Open draws near, all eyes have turned to Chambers Bay, a municipal golf course in University Place, Washington (south of Seattle). While the course has played host to the U.S. Amateur in 2010, this will be the first professional event contested over the links-style layout on the shores of Puget Sound.
That’s right, links-style, in the U.S. Open.
Only a few of the players in the field have ever played Chambers Bay, so there will be plenty of uncertainty in the locker room prior to the event. A couple of characteristics of the course will stand out right away. First, it is incredibly long. It is possible that the course can be stretched to 8,000 yards, but it will likely play in the range of 7,700 – 7,800 during the tournament. Also, there is just a single tree on the entire property, and it doesn’t even come into play. Despite being contested in the tree-filled Pacific Northwest, no evergreens will have a say in the ultimate winner of the National Championship.
Links on a Slope
When thinking about links courses, most golfers immediately picture the flat landscapes typically featured during The Open Championship each July. Courses like St. Andrews are filled with little humps and bumps, but the land overall tends to be flat. That is not the case at Chambers Bay. Despite being built in the traditional links-style, Chambers is a course on the side of a hill. Both the front nine and the back nine climb, and then descend, a significant slope. This hill provides for incredible views of the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains, but it also adds a unique twist to typical links golf.
Difficult in a Different Way
Although Chambers Bay will lack the narrow, tree-lined fairways that are the calling card of the U.S. Open, there will still be plenty of bogeys to go around. There is more rough lining the fairways than would be found on most links courses, and the slopes mentioned above mean that positioning the golf ball will be critical. The weather in the Pacific Northwest has been dry and warm in advance of the tournament, meaning the course should be playing firm and fast. Add in a course that will play nearly 7,800 yards over a par 70 layout, and breaking par over four days starts to look like quite the accomplishment.
Who Has the Edge?
In a tournament like the U.S. Open, it is difficult to identify a potential winner simply because there are so many great players in the field. All of the top names in the game will be present at Chambers Bay, each of them determined to add a major title to their resume. Looking at the course specifically, it would seem that the long hitters will have an immediate advantage, so players like Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson quickly come to mind. Of course, Jordan Spieth put on an impressive performance at The Masters, and is a threat in any tournament which he enters.
The player who most-quickly adapts to the unique challenges of Chambers Bay is the one who will be holding the trophy at the end of the week. There has never been a U.S. Open played on a course quite like this, and the ability to plan smart shots – and then execute them – is going to be what allows a player to rise to the top of the leaderboard. With great weather expected and big crowds on hand, the 2015 U.S. Open will be an event for every golf fan to enjoy.