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Was Chambers Bay a Fair U.S. Open Golf Course?


Last updated 6/23/2015 at Noon

All last weekend golf fans were deluged with such terms as fescue, backstop, vertigo and Stimpmeter by the Fox-TV announcers who were covering the 115th U.S. Open Golf Tournament that was played at Chambers Bay just outside Tacoma, Wash.

This was the first attempt by the United States Golf Association to have a major golf tourney in the Northwestern area of the country.

Apparently it’s a big deal for the U.S. Open to be held at specific golf courses in the United States, although the only benefit I can see from landing the major tournament is the prestige of showing off the golf course to a national television audience for eight hours in each of the four days.

But Chambers Bay appeared to be the exact opposite of what the USGA is trying to do to the sport of golf—speed up play. The golf course is laid out so that the players must traverse 10.1 miles and upward to six hours to play 18 holes and was designed by renowned golf architect. Robert Trent Jones, Jr.

The fairways are rock-hard with elevations that affect many perfect drives right down the middle that end up in the brittle fescue rough or one of the many sand traps that adorn the course. Many of the greens had backstops where the golfer hits the ball past the pin and watches it roll back toward the hole.

Many of the world’s best golfers started complaining about Chambers Bay months in advance and many of them have openly ripped the site of the 2015 U.S. Open this week.

Kate Fagan, a female sports reporter for ESPN’s “Around The Horn” show, was asked last Thursday what she thought about Chambers Bay and replied, “It’s a great golf course if you like gray greens and yellow fairways,”

Even the 2015 U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth called Par 5, No. 18 “the dumbest hole I’ve played in my life.” Ironically, Spieth drove his second shot on the green and two putted for a birdie that won the championship for him by a single stroke.

Playing one hole behind Spieth was Dustin Johnson who also knocked his second shot on the 18th green but three-putted and lost by one stroke.

If he had sunk the 15-foot eagle putt, Johnson would have won the four-day event. However he also missed his three-foot birdie putt that would have sent the tourney into an 18-hole playoff against Spieth on Monday.

Spieth’s criticism was mild compared to what 1965 U.S. Open champion Gary Player had to say about Chambers Bay.

“The worst golf course I might’ve ever seen in the 63 years as a professional golfer. The USGA—who I admire and have chosen great golf courses in this great United States of America—they’re preaching speed of play, enjoyment and user-friendly.

“This golf course here, if you’re a 10-handicap, you couldn’t break 100 if you had the best day of your life. They’ve got pros putting from 20 feet and hitting the ball 20 feet to the right. A man missed the green by a yard and he’s 50 yards down in the valley. I mean, I don’t understand it,” Player continued.

Player also noted that as a public course, Chambers Bay is hardly accessible for an average golfer. “It’s 7,900 yards long. The world is in dire straits with water. Can you imagine the costs to maintain this? And it’s a public course, but they’ll probably charge the public $200 to play it.

“I’d like to challenge anyone with a 16 handicap to do better than 40 over par. It’s barely playable,” Player concluded.

One of the first players to criticize the conditioning of the U.S. Open course was Sergio Garcia. “The tournament deserves better,” he said. “It’s like playing the NBA Finals on a court with holes and slopes and no backboard and things like that. It doesn’t look right.”

Jason Day became the sentimental favorite after collapsing from a vertigo attack Friday on the final hole and barely finishing only to go on to rally for a share of the 54-hole lead after Saturday’s round. However, he fell out of contention with a 74 Sunday.

Spieth is the youngest player to win two career major tournaments since Gene Sarazen did it in 1922 and is the youngest U.S. Open champion since Bob Jones in 1923.

He also is the sixth player to win the Masters and the U.S. Open in the same year. Others accomplishing the feat include Craig Wood (1941), Ben Hogan (1951 and 1953), Arnold Palmer (1960), Jack Nicklaus (1972) and Tiger Woods (2002).

And South African Louis Oosthuizen’s 29 on the back nine Sunday was the best nine-hole score in the 115-year history of the U.S. Open.

KWICKIES…Sunset Grove Country Club golfer Dave McClenan made his second hole-in-one in less than a year last week when he aced the 133-yard Par 3, No. 12 hole using a seven-iron. Witnessing the feat worth $200 because Dave is an MGA member was Ron Roberts.

The death of former Heisman Trophy winner John David Crow last week leaves only Johnny Manziel as the lone Texas A&M player to receive that prestigious honor. Hopefully college football fans will someday feel the same way about Manziel that they did about Crow.

The apples certainly don’t fall far from the tree as Houston Astros’ Hall of Famer-elect Craig Biggio’s sons were in the baseball headlines recently. His oldest son, Conor, was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 34th round as a left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing outfielder at Notre Dame. Younger brother Cavan, a second baseman for the Fighting Irish, was named recently as a college Golden Glove winner by the American Baseball Coaches Association.

And speaking of the Houston Astros, they’re maintaining their hold on first place in the American League West Division with a 41-30 record in games through Sunday, leading the second place Texas Rangers by 3½ games. The Astros conclude their eight-game road trip today (Wed.) after playing three games at Anaheim against the LA Angels.

JUST BETWEEN US…Congrats are in order to the West Orange-Stark Mustangs who were selected last weekend by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine as the team to beat in Class 4A Division II. Mustangs Head Coach Cornel Thompson was recognized as one of the best in the state—regardless of classification—after leading the team to the state championship game last season. “That’s putting a great big target on our backs for this fall when every one of our opponents will give it their best to put that kind of news to rest,’ Thompson commented. “So we’re going to have to really dedicate ourselves to hard work when practice begins this summer.”


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