CLICK IMAGE TO READ OUR EXCLUSIVE BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK at THE 115th U.S. OPEN
By Cameron Healey
The wait is over. After 8 years in the making, we’re finally on the doorstep of our region hosting the 115th U.S. Open at nearby Chambers Bay Golf Course at University Place. The immense logistical undertaking for Chambers Bay hosting its first ever major championship is almost complete and ready for implementation. The Pacific Northwest is ready to show the world that they better take this course, this town, and this golfing region seriously. Yep, we’re officially ready to showcase the Robert Trent Jones, Jr.-designed Chambers Bay Golf Course. Admittedly, it’s not easy keeping the adrenaline and ramped-up sense of anticipation in check as I consider how the event and Championship will unfold and play out this week. But then again, I can’t imagine the sense of anticipation and excitement that most of the 156 players will experience when they first start their practice rounds today experiencing first-hand what a tremendous challenge RTJ, Jr. and USGA Executive Director Mike Davis will have planned for them later this week. Of course, for some this is not their first rodeo. I’m referencing the likes of Phil Mickelson who has yet to capture the one major that has eluded him thus far in what will be his 22nd attempt, although he has placed a soul-searching runner up a total of six times. And based on Mickelson’s impression of RTJ’s links course in his recent visit to the course, you can bet he studied every knob, knoll, mound, sandy area, and green undulation possible during his brief excursion. In fact, according to a recent news report Mickelson was quoted as saying,” I think it’s wonderful…The first time you play it, it’s like St. Andrews. You don’t know where to go. You don’t know what mounds do to the ball.” I, for one, would love to see Lefty complete the Grand Slam at Chambers Bay.
Not if the other 155 players have a say in it. In fact, included in the exemption list of 74 players (as of April 20th) are many who played in the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay: Russell Henley, Morgan Hoffman, Brooks Koepka, and Jordan Spieth. They will likely experience a golf course that has undergone significant modifications and tweaks since the Amateur was held five years ago. Will they have an advantage over the other players playing Chambers for the first time? Perhaps. The one notable omission from that group of stellar players, however, is Peter Uihlein who went on to beat David Chung, 4 and 2, in the final match of the 2010 US Amateur Championship but missed out earning a trip back to Chambers Bay by one stroke during last week’s Sectional Qualifier at Walton Heath Golf Club in England. At the other end of the career spectrum lie Hall of Famer Ernie Els, who will be playing his 23rd consecutive U.S. Open, Jim Furyk with 21, and Tiger Woods has 19 appearances. Do they have the imagination and game to tame Chambers Bay? Quite possibly.
And what of the other 9,700+ applicants, who started out dreaming of walking the fine fescue fairways of the former sand and gravel quarry that lies adjacent to Puget Sound? For most, the two-stage qualifying process, which consisted of 18 holes of local qualifying that from May 4 to May 21 followed by 36 holes during the sectional qualifying (two international locations in Japan and England and 10 locations in the U.S.), and concluded last Monday, proved the greater challenge. Here, in the Pacific Northwest, 50 players competed in temperatures in the mid-80s at Tumble Creek Club in Cle Elum, WA to earn one of three spots in the Big Show. Who emerged from Tom Doak’s 7000 yard track with a golden ticket? Call it a Husky Alumni trifecta. Medalist Honors went to Cheng-Tsung Pan whose two-under finish over 36 holes on the par-70 course was one stroke better than fellow Alums Troy Kelly and Richard Lee who graduated from University of Washington in 2003 and 2010, respectively. Pan scored an ace on the 227 yard, par 3 seventh during his early morning round and birdied three of his last four holes to cap an impressive 36-hole performance. Impressive, given the conditions; and now all three will have an opportunity to compete for U.S. Open honors this week. Good luck to them and the remainder of the field. Let the fun begin…