Some players already ‘chirping’ about course in University Place, but those who know it best have an affection for it
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Mike Davis said he expected some players to “chirp” about Chambers Bay, the University Place golf course where the U.S. Open will be held in June.
What the USGA executive director got, just one day after making that comment April 27 at Media Day for the U.S. Open, was a full-throated scream, delivered in a tweet by Ian Poulter:
“Well several players have played Chambers Bay in prep for US Open. The reports back are its a complete farce. I guess someone has to win.”
And then there was this comment by Ryan Palmer, who played Chambers Bay just before that Media Day, that has been widely circulated the past week:
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“As far as the greens are concerned, it’s not a championship golf course.”
Henrik Stenson, ranked No. 3 in the world, walked the course earlier this month and was a bit more diplomatic when asked Friday about his thoughts.
“It’s a tricked-up links course.”
But some of the PGA Tour players who know Chambers Bay the best had much different reactions this past week at The Players Championship.
“He doesn’t know, he’s never been there,” Michael Putnam of University Place said about Poulter’s comment.
Putnam lives a mile and a half from Chambers Bay and proudly says, “I opened the course up, playing the first round there.”
Putnam said he has played the course 20 to 30 times and he said players’ perceptions will depend on their expectations. Chambers Bay is a virtually treeless, links-style course with elevation change that is unlike any site the U.S. Open has visited before.
“I told guys, if you’re expecting a U.S. Open course, it’s not going to be that,” he said. “If you’re going there expecting a British Open or a PGA Championship course, then you’ll do all right. The U.S. Open is usually on tree-lined courses, with firm and fast greens — not fescue for sure — and more of a traditional American-style golf course, whereas Chambers Bay is not that.”
Nick Taylor, the former Washington Husky star, has not played at Chambers Bay since he lost in the first round in the 2010 U.S. Amateur. But said he has played about 10 to 15 total rounds there, including some with UW coach Matt Thurmond.
“There is so much imagination at Chambers Bay, and playing there with Matt Thurmond, that’s kind of the name of his game,” Taylor said. “He sees all these slopes that sometimes are unnecessary but are fun to use. So I liked it, and hopefully I can get there.”
Taylor, as Putnam, will go through sectional qualifying June 8 in Columbus, Ohio.
Justin Thomas, 22, is one of the rising stars on the PGA Tour and said he is well aware of the buzz about Chambers Bay. He made it to the round of 32 in match play at the 2010 U.S. Amateur.
“I’ve heard of some guys who aren’t crazy about it, and it is a course where you’re going to get people who either hate it or love it,” Thomas said. “But I loved it, and I am really excited to hopefully get back there.
“It’s very similar to a British Open. You have to be creative and you have to use your imagination. I like having a chip shot and you can’t go directly at the pin. It’s fun, because you’ve got to get a little creative. It’s a great tract and I hope there are more people who love it (than hate it).”
Not that Davis is losing any sleep over what players are saying.
“This is a one-of-a-kind site for us at the U.S. Open,” Davis said. “There’s going to be some players who … love the imagination, who, as I say, embrace it. Then there’s other players who just want predictability. So it would not be a U.S. Open if we didn’t get some chirping. In fact, we joke internally sometimes that if nobody’s complaining, we have done something wrong.”