Henrik Stenson on Friday said navigating the greens at Chambers Bay was like “putting on broccoli.’’

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UNIVERSITY PLACE — After a few days of hearing varying — and increasingly critical — descriptions of the greens at Chambers Bay, Larry Gilhuly responded with one of his own.

“Smooth as a billiard table,’’ said Gilhuly, the Agronomist for the West Region of the USGA, which means he helped head up the team that prepared the course for the U.S. Open. “These are superb putting conditions.’’


That was news to many players, most of whom finished their rounds and then reached for their thesaurus to find ever more creative ways to express their disgust.

Henrik Stenson on Friday said navigating the greens at Chambers Bay was like “putting on broccoli.’’

Photos from the U.S. Open

Asked about that comment Saturday, fellow golfer Rory McIlroy shook his head.

“I don’t think they are as green as broccoli,’’ he said. “I think they’re more like cauliflower.’’


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Golf fans at the U.S. Open express their fashion style in bright color and preppy details and offer tips for what others should wear to Chambers Bay. Read more. (Katie G. Cotterill & Lauren Frohne / The Seattle Times)    

Sergio Garcia, who on Thursday took to Twitter to rip the conditions of the greens, reiterated his criticism during an interview on the Fox telecast Saturday, saying it was like playing the NBA Finals on a basketball court that didn’t have a backboard and instead had slopes and holes on the court and that the greens are “not up to the standard’’ necessary for a U.S. Open.

Gilhuly, though, said he was “over-the-top excited’’ about the job done by the crew preparing the course each day.

“All I can tell you is that (USGA executive director) Mike Davis is very pleased with the putting surfaces,’’ he said. “And if he’s pleased then we are pleased.’’

Gilhuly said he thinks the criticism is due solely to four greens that he acknowledged have presented some challenges along the way — 1, 4, 12 and 15.

I don’t think they are as green as broccoli, I think they’re more like cauliflower.’” - Rory McIlroy

Gilhuly said those greens suffered some damage from being played on during the winter of 2013-14 and have required some extra attention to get ready for the Open.

“It’s just these four outliers,’’ he said. “And it gets painted like they are all bad when it couldn’t be further from the truth.’’

As he spoke, he was aside the fourth hole and had just watched Jordan Spieth sink birdie putts on the second and third greens, putts he said proved that most of the greens were in optimum shape.

“I just wish everyone knew that it’s just these four greens that are the issue,’’ he said.

Players, though, indicated the problems ran deeper.

“There’s no grass on a few of them,’’ said Louis Oosthuizen after shooting a four-under 66. “So it’s just dead. There’s a few holes where it doesn’t look really, really good.’’

USGA officials figured the greens would create conversation due to the fact that this is the first U.S. Open played on a course that consists of fine fescue grass.

Some of the greens have since become infested with poa annua, a natural Northwest plant, which contributes to the splotchy look that is more vivid on TV than in person.

A few of the greens were reseeded 21 months before the tournament after being infested with other grasses, including 7, 10 and 13. Interestingly, golfers often referred to those greens as among the best on the course.

“The newer greens like 7 and 13, they’re perfect,’’ said McIlroy. “They’re just one grass, fescue, and the ball rolls really well on those. But it’s just the ones where the poa has sort of crept in and the two grasses grow at different speeds and that’s what gives it the bumpiness.’’

Davis said on several occasions prior to the tournament that criticism of the greens is, well par for the course at any U.S. Open, a stance he reiterated during an interview Saturday morning on the FOX broadcast.

Davis said much of the criticism is unfounded, saying the greens “are better than they look’’ and that the difference in the shade of the grass may be deceiving the players a bit.

“The colors are different here,’’ Davis said.

“A lot of it is your eyes telling you it doesn’t look like it’s going to be smooth.’’

Oosthuizen insisted the bumps were no illusion, while noting an eternal truth about dealing with rugged course conditions.

“I think everyone probably expected it to be a bit better, the greens,’’ he said.

“But at the end of the day, we all need to play and make putts.’’