Chambers Bay will host a different kind of U.S. Open
Unique and versatile.
Those are two words you’ll be hearing a lot as the golf world starts to turn its collective focus toward the Pacific Northwest, which — in terms of U.S. Opens — has never happened.
As we inch closer to the start of the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, the interest grows, not only because this will be the first time Chambers hosts this national championship but simply because there are so many unknowns about this facility.
For the past two days — including on Monday’s media day — I’ve spent as much time possible scouring this golf course, trying to figure out any and all bumps, knobs and hummocks (oh, yes, you’ll need to know this word), and I’ve come away as interested in this upcoming major as any in past memory.
The reason? Because we don’t really know what will happen.
Never has the U.S. Open been played on a piece of land like this, a links-style golf course that can play so many different ways caddies should be paid double.
And frankly, I cannot wait for the U.S. Open to begin. Mostly because I think Chambers Bay is going to offer as unique of an experience as there can be in pro golf these days.
People will complain about the course at times, sure, but that is part of what makes up the U.S. Open. Have you ever heard a pro golfer walk off the 72nd hole at the Open and say, “Boy, I’d love another two days here!” Frustration is part of the intrigue that makes this tournament so different. It is supposed to test all parts of your game, and mental composition is a huge part of that. If the course didn’t haunt those 6 inches between your ears, it wouldn’t be doing its job.
And as for Chambers Bay itself, the word versatility will get used as much as any player’s 4-iron.
For one, Nos. 1 and 18 will switch pars during the tournament, the first time that has ever happened. One day you might start off on a 598-yard par-5, with a friendly fairway and a birdie opportunity right off the bat, and the next you might be trying to squeeze a tee shot in between a brutal fairway bunker and ankle-high rough on a 496-yard par-4 first.
And that is just the beginning. You want versatility? We have versatility!
The par-3 ninth hole has two different sets of tees, and while you sit at home thinking, What’s so different about that, understand that one tee plays dramatically downhill to a green with bunkers guarding all parts of the right side and the other tee is an uphill carry of some 240 yards. It is two holes in one, something you’ve never seen before on a golf course and definitely never seen before in a major championship.
Want to talk about changing the approach for Rory, Justin or Patrick? The 16th can play 423 yards to an inviting pin position somewhere in the middle of the green one day and a drivable 287 yards the next, to an area of the green so skinny that even Ryo Ishikawa would feel self-conscious.
And the bottom line is this: Chambers Bay won’t be for everyone, but really, what U.S. Open venue is?
Golf has changed. This is a time in the game of golf to embrace youth — with the success of Lydia Ko and Jordan Spieth — and right along those same lines, doesn’t it make sense to play the toughest test in the major championship circuit on a golf course younger than each of them?
I, for one, am pumped, not just because I get to work this event but because I think a venue like this is good for the game. It won’t be for some people, but, really, isn’t that what golf is all about? People complaining about the ball going too far or the drivers being too hot or the greens being too fast? Isn’t part of this game expressing exactly what you feel at any moment? It’s why every group you’re playing behind is too slow and every read from your caddie is a bad one if it doesn’t produce a one-putt.
Chambers Bay is an experience not just for the PGA Tour but for a whole new generation of the game.
Hanging out in downtown Tacoma this weekend, I talked with a local about the buzz around the town heading into the June 18-21 tournament, which will be broadcast on FOX for the first time.
A group of people in particular he said were fired up for this tournament are the marijuana dispensaries around Washington, hoping that business booms when the hundreds of thousands of golf fans flood the Seattle area. Tell that to your country club grandfather and see how it goes. This is a different time, a different era, and Chambers Bay looks to embrace all of that.
Of course, there will be times this golf course doesn’t play totally fair. I would be lying if I said I loved the seventh green, or thought the eight potential 495-yard-plus par-4s at Chambers Bay could eliminate a part of the field. (Humblebrag alert: I made a three on the 534-yard par-4 13th on Monday and decided to call it a “beagle” instead because it felt like an eagle even if it writes like a birdie.)
But at the same time, a takeaway from this is what could happen during the final round as golfing’s best make their way around the Puget Sound. Phil Mickelson will be a factor, no doubt in my mind. His length and creativity will allow him to once again get in position to take the one major he can’t seem to finish off. As will Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson.
We as golf fans should embrace the newfound beauty of Chambers Bay, the excitement surrounding the area and the uniqueness that comes with a completely new venue that the USGA found. I’m excited. You should be, too.
Shane Bacon is a regular contributor to FOXSports.com’s golf coverage. Follow him on Twitter at @shanebacon.