What to watch for at the US Open

June 12, 2015

And to think only 15 years ago, gravel was being mined from a pit that is now a public course hosting the 115th U.S. Open.

The star attraction of this championship is Chambers Bay, the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design with wild changes in elevation, stunning views of Puget Sound and - get this - no rough around the greens.

In fact, there will be markings so that players are clear when the fairway ends and the green begins.

There's plenty more new, too. Fox Sports was awarded a 12-year deal to televise the U.S. Open, which starts this year. There will be different graphics and gadgets, but what's seen isn't the biggest difference. Johnny Miller and his blunt analysis were a big part of the U.S. Open show when it was on NBC for the last 20 years. Those duties now fall to Greg Norman.


Here's more to look for when the championship starts Thursday:

TALE OF THE TIGER: This is the seventh anniversary of the last major Tiger Woods won, and there would not appear to be any relief in sight. Woods hasn't won a tournament since August 2013, and he hasn't finished in the top 10 in his last 14 tournaments worldwide. He is No. 181 in the world. The last time his world ranking was that bad, Jordan Spieth had just turned 3.

BID FOR A SLAM: Phil Mickelson has been relatively quiet this year. He was runner-up at the Masters, but no one was going to catch Jordan Spieth. Still, this is the U.S. Open. This is the only major keeping Lefty from becoming the sixth player to capture the career Grand Slam (Rory McIlroy missed his chance at the Masters). Mickelson believes he has at least a couple of more chances in him. Maybe this will be one of them.

CHIRPING: That sound is more likely to come from the players than any birds. Chambers Bay is getting plenty of attention from players who have never seen it. There's a chance teeing grounds will not be level. There are enough contours in the fairway to make bounces unpredictable. ''Some of the players will absolutely embrace the architecture and embrace the golf course setup,'' USGA executive director Mike Davis said. ''Others will chirp.''

PAR IS JUST A NUMBER: Par could be two numbers on No. 1 and No. 18. For the first time, the USGA plans to change par on two holes during the course of the championship. On the days that No. 1 is a par 5, then No. 18 will be a par 4. And when No. 1 is a par 4, the closing hole will be a par 5. Either way, it adds to a par 70. And what hasn't changed is that the low score wins.

I THINK THAT I SHALL NEVER SEE: In another U.S. Open anomaly, the only tree on the golf course is a Douglas fir located on a hill above the 15th green. Get used to it, for Chambers Bay still has one more tree than the next two major championship sites - St. Andrews (British Open) and Whistling Straits (PGA Championship).

GALLERY CONTROL: Don't expect to see fans four-deep lining every fairway at Chambers Bay. With the rugged dunes and 100-foot changes in elevation, this might be the toughest course to walk all year. The USGA is encouraging fans to find a grandstand, which would allow them to see several holes at one time. Remember, there are no trees to block anyone's view.

ANCHORS AWAY: Webb Simpson remains the only player to use an anchored stroke (belly putter) to win the U.S. Open at Olympic Club in 2012. This will be the last U.S. Open that long putters pressed against a player's body is allowed. It will be banned on Jan. 1.