U.S. Open rounds at Chambers Bay expected to last 6 hours
These might be some of the longest rounds in the U.S. Open, and it won't all be down to slow play.
Chambers Bay is a long hike even without clubs.
USGA executive director Mike Davis set the time par at 4 hours, 45 minutes, which is not close to what anyone is expecting a threesome to get around in for 18 holes. Time par is merely used as a gauge to determine if a group that falls out of position (such as an entire hole behind) should be warned for slow play.
Don't be surprised if actual time for the later groups is pushing six hours.
Davis said the average walking time between greens and tees at Chambers Bay is 21 minutes.
"Put that in perspective," Davis said. "Last year at Pinehurst, we had 13 minutes. Merion the year before, 11 minutes. So we had to add some time to that. And then obviously, it's a U.S. Open. It's a tough test of golf."
Davis said the USGA staff would have plenty of help from the PGA Tour and European Tour to help monitor the pace of play, and that players might be asked to clear the green once they all are on the putting surface to let the group behind tee off on par 3s and drivable par 4s.
The lead groups are critical to set a good pace, and the time par mainly will apply to them. But with 26 groups of threesomes going on both sides, morning and afternoon, odds are it will slow down during the course of the day.
Washington would rarely be considered a hotbed state for golf because of the gray, drizzly conditions for the majority of the year.
Slowly that perception has changed with more PGA Tour players from the Pacific Northwest and the rise in profile of collegiate programs in this corner of the country.
Washington is one of those programs and will have three alums: Troy Kelly, Richard Lee and Cheng-Tsung Pan teeing off on Thursday.
"As much as we love our golf community it's not a deep golf community as a lot of the others around the country," Washington golf coach Matt Thurmond said. "I think that's really changing and I've always felt that it could change and should change."
Thurmond will be carrying the bag for Pan, who was the individual runner-up at the NCAA Championships before winning his sectional qualifier. Kelly and Lee earned the other two spots from that sectional event at Tumble Creek about two hours east of Chambers Bay.
Kelly, who can see Chambers Bay from his house in nearby Steilacoom, Washington, turned pro in 2003, while Lee went pro in 2010. The U.S. Open will be the professional debut for Pan.
"This climate and these conditions produce good golf," Thurmond said. "You tend to become a product of what you do all the time and playing in these conditions -- not talking about weather, I'm talking ground conditions, how the ball flies -- it produces good golfers."
Masters champion Jordan Spieth knows he is the only player capable of winning the calendar Grand Slam because "you have to win the first one."
Only three players dating to 1960 -- Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods -- have won the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year. And there's a reason for that. But even if he were to simply contend on the back nine Sunday, Spieth would join some elite company.
In the last 25 years, only three players who won the Masters had a chance to add the second leg of the Grand Slam.
Nick Faldo in 1990 finished one shot out of playoff at the Medinah.
Woods won the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in 2002, and he was runner-up to Michael Campbell at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2005.
Phil Mickelson was runner-up at Shinnecock Hills in 2004. He was runner-up at Winged Foot in 2006. And after his third Masters title in 2010, he finished three shots behind Graeme McDowell at Pebble Beach.
Eager to get going
The U.S. Open is in the Pacific Northwest for the first time in its 120-year history, and it shows.
Not so much by ticket sales. The U.S. Open typically is a sellout.
The best measure is the volunteers.
USGA president Tom O'Toole said it usually takes anywhere from three weeks to three months to sign up some 5,200 volunteers needed at the U.S. Open. The list for Chambers Bay was filled out in 36 hours.
Four of the past five U.S. Open champions have come from Europe, beginning with Graeme McDowell's victory in 2010 at Pebble Beach that ended a 40-year drought for Europeans.
There's no one reason for the uptick in European champions, but Rory McIlroy, the 2011 winner at Congressional, believes it can be tied to Europe's success in the Ryder Cup, winning six of the seven matches since 2002.
"I think it's given Europeans the confidence to come over here and compete, three of the four major championships are in this country," McIlroy said. "And most likely you're competing against players that you compete against at the Ryder Cup. So I think having that success in the Ryder Cup has translated into major victories for European players."
* Michael Greller, the caddie for Jordan Spieth, thought a standard bearer looked familiar in their practice round group. Turns out she was a freshman on the Curtis High golf team that he coached before going to work for Spieth. The girl now is a senior. Greller was a sixth-grade math teacher up taking a leave of absence to work for Spieth at the start of the 2013 season.
* Titleist was having to make a new set of clubs for Victor Dubuisson, whose clubs were lost on the flight over to Washington.