May 05

U.S. Open at Chamber Bay

Chamber Bay Hosts 2015 U.S. Open

Going To Be A Strange Major This Year

For the first time in history, one of the big four grand slam events is coming to the Pacific Northwest, and even more unusual than that, if you’ve ever been there, it’s coming to Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. Even for the people who live there, that’s often an unknown region. It’s got all manner of topographical oddities, climates, ocean views and inland treasures, even an active rain forest, not far from a petrified one. It has unpredictable and potent winds, if it decides to bring them in on a particular day. Into this rather weird environment, the PGA is going to set a rather weird version of the U.S. Open, in just a few weeks.

chamber bay The course at Chamber Bay is a modified links course, and the powers-that-be are re-growing it into its evil former self. They’re adding thick, deep rough to that already in existence, and already difficult. No U.S. Open will have ever been played on a course with fewer even lies. It is beautiful, no question about that, but it also looks like St. Andrews as seen through a carnival mirror, wending and undulating down to the sea. It is a fair question as to whether the fairways are really the safest place to be on the course. To say that there is nowhere to hit a level shot, or enjoy a level stance is an understatement. Mountain goats would have an advantage here.
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The PGA claims that it isn’t trying to be “cute” or even “innovative,” which can be a dangerous word around golf traditions. They are, however, attempting to adapt the event to the inherent properties of the course’s terrain. The players and pundits, it seems, just aren’t buying it. The inherent properties of the course are quite weird enough. So why will this U.S. Open be played with intentionally sloped tee boxes? Why will the pars be flipped on 1 and 18, maybe playing as a five on one day, and as a four on the next? Why will Chamber Bay be played as a “maybe” par 70, subject to change overnight?

The event already looks as if it could be played on the surface of the moon, with some extra vegetation and beautiful views thrown in. The added ‘incentives’ have the players crying ‘foul’ before even seeing the course. I can only assume that at the bottom of the tee box controversy is a perceived violation of an underlying premise in golf. The first tee, and any other for that matter, is the one place the golfer is safe. The belief is that he or she should not be put in danger unless they hit a shot that puts them there. When you stand on the tee, you have a clean slate, and the hazards should start down the fairway, at a distance away.
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The only abiding principle remaining is that whatever the field is to put through, at least they’ll all be put through it in identical fashion, but that’s not much comfort to anyone so far. Ryan Palmer came right out and said it – “That’s not golf…it is a joke.” Maybe that’s a bit strong, but something in this smacks of ‘muni’ golf, and I’ve had a bellyful of that – good approach shots that end up back at your feet, well-stroked putts that end up requiring a seven-iron return, fairway-splitting drives that take a hop over the highway. No one has ever said it, and it’s not in the USGA rules, but the tee box feels sacred, and shouldn’t be messed with, as if you’ve already hit a bad shot to deserve a sloping lie. I hope this doesn’t backfire, because I’d love to see more tournaments like the U.S. Open played in the Pacific Northwest – it’s a gorgeous corner of the country, and golf thrives here.

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