You may think that doing a preview for major championships would be easier than say, the John Deere Classic (aka the Fifth Major), but it’s actually the opposite. The majors are covered at a nauseating level by every major news outlet, and even bring the Rovell types out of the woodwork to pretend like they’ve been paying attention all year (CRAZY: Martin Kaymer made $5,977 PER STROKE at the 2014 U.S. Open). The hard to reach, off the beaten path facts that we like to dig up have already been beaten over your head (did you know that Michael Greller used to caddie at this course!?).
This year, our national championship is being held at Chambers Bay, a course I (along with most other) know very little about. Considering I’m writing this from 5,000 miles away from the media center, I suggest you get insight on the details of the course from a lot better sources (I recommend Shane Bacon’s mailbag). It’s tough to really come up with the fresh angle, but I’m not gonna lay up.
When you look at the PGA Tour schedule, it’s kind of shocking to see just how far into the season we are. This is the time of the year when it’s hard to not get burned out on the “regular” tour events, and not just care about the majors. It’s like getting past the dating part of a relationship, and you’re now at the part where you just watch Netflix and refuse to admit that you’re sick of each other. At least you have a few summer vacations scheduled, and the U.S. Open and British Open are the two weekends you’re looking forward to.
I was pumped when I found out there was going to be a U.S. Open aired in prime time, but then I decided to move to Europe and I realized that this is the worst thing that could happen to a human. I’m rearranging sleep and work schedules to budget time to stay up until 4:30 AM Monday morning when coverage wraps in Holland. Am I a hero? Look, I didn’t use the word, you did.
It’s easier and more fun for me to simply talk about this event (and let others closer to the situation talk as well) than write about it, so I broke it down with Shane Ryan this week, as well as discussed his book, Slaying The Tiger, on the NLU Podcast. But moving along to the preview…
I’m not embarrassed to say that I really don’t know much about Chambers Bay, especially considering only those that have played the course themselves have any idea what to expect. The one thing I do know is that there will be bitching. At times in the past, I would imagine that players have been hesitant to complain about the truly historic courses, mostly out of respect to tradition of these classic clubs, and out of respect to the membership. Although I acknowledge that most of the grumbling has more to do with the USGA’s alterations and manipulation of the courses than it does the layout, it should be noted that there’s no such built up esteem in regards to the course’s track record for the young Chambers Bay, and no membership to appease. It’s open season, and the pros are going to come hunting for Mike Davis as soon as the first putt rolls comically off a green.
Pray for Mike Davis
The U.S. Open website has a great breakdown of the course that lets you get as familiar with it as possible before Fox’s drones inevitably start humming in Bubba’s backswing and get shot out of the sky like a clay disc on a skeet shooting range. Both the 1st and 18th holes can be played as either a par 4 or a par 5 (as if that matters), and several holes can be played at greatly varying lengths (in particular, number 15 can be played as short as 123 yards, and as long as 246 yards). The teeing areas aren’t really even teeing areas, as the terrain from the previous hole sort of just rolls into the following hole, similar to the landscape at Bandon Dunes and Streamsong. Unconventional, idiosyncratic, and at times, it’s just going to be downright wacky. With Donald Trump announcing his presidential candidacy this week, don’t be surprised if he takes a break from Obama’s birth certificate to take a rip on the brown look of Chambers Bay.
The part that I’m most concerned with are the green complexes. Horschel made a comment about being worried about them, and the image I have in my mind is similar to what I experienced at Streamsong. My one criticism of those courses was that there are elephants buried under those greens, and did not seem to be designed to provoke thought making and strategy, but more just to mess with you and protect the course. I can see Chambers Bay playing the same way.
Nobody loves to complain more than Bubba Watson and Ian Poulter, so bringing them to a U.S. Open is like having Taylor Swift and Adele date each other, then write songs about it. The material potential is just endless. Poulter didn’t even bother making it out to the property before his campaign of tears began. Ryan Palmer has already stated that it’s “not a championship course.” Jordan Spieth carefully and tactically labeled it as “inventive.” Ladies and gentlemen, the 2015 U.S. Open!
Lost in the hysteria around the course, the obsession with par, and cutaways to someone’s oil spill several holes away from the key action, is the fact that this tournament is our national championship. Both the USGA and Fox are banking big on Chambers Bay being an absolute spectacle on TV, and I’m anticipating that it’s actually going to live up to the hype. A lot of people are nervous about Fox taking over coverage, as they admittedly have no experience covering golf, but at the same time, I’m fine with a break from the traditional mold of golf coverage. What they lack in golf broadcast experience, they (hopefully) make up for with their overall experience broadcasting sports. When it comes down to it, an alternative to the CBS artificially infused drama, and the NBC Johnny Miller show might not be a completely disastrous option, even if Joe Buck is heavily involved.
I mean, there’s going to be drones flying over top Bubba Watson. Fox is going to have to dress the dude with the remote control to that thing in camouflage or there is going to be a murder on live television. Ted Scott is going to have his work cut out for himself just getting out of the way:
(GIF courtesy of the amazing Chris Chaney)
Expect the vibe to be extra jovial. I’ve never been to the PNW, but I imagine that the Seattle folk have been counting down this event for a long time. You’ll see some Jimmy Graham Seahawks jerseys with the tags still on them, and be ready for Pete Carroll to suggest that Spieth hit a flop shot with his one footer to win on the 72nd hole.
Kaymer dominated. Brooks was there.
Jordan Spieth (8/1) – Bold! I picked him before the season started, and I’m not changing that pick just because he won the first major. If this happens, and you thought my reaction to him winning the Masters was over the top (it was), then be prepared for “teen girl at her first One Direction concert” type fangirl-ing (I’m already embarrassed).
Justin Rose (18/1) – Runner up at the Memorial in his last start, and won the Zurich in late April. His slow start to the season seems like a lifetime ago, and he seems like the efficient ball-striker that could really thrive on this course (obviously this is just a guess).
Billy Horschel (50/1) – Coming off a final round 65 in Memphis, and a strong history at the U.S. Open (T23 in 2014, and T4 in 2013), I just keep picturing Horschel starting wildfires out there in the plains of Washington. A Spieth/Horschel final pairing on Sunday would have longer monologues between players, caddies, and golf balls than an Aaron Sorkin screenplay.
Brooks Koepka (60/1) – A shaky weekend in Memphis where a few truly horrific shots cost him the title can be easily forgotten when looked at through NLU-shaded glasses. Strong performance at the U.S. Open last year, a bomber, and atruly apathetic IDGAF look to him gives me the (perhaps unwarranted) perception that he has the demeanor to succeed on this stage.
Fantasy: Obviously all the big guns are here, so you can’t ignore Rory, DJ, Phil, J-Day, etc. Keep in mind that I haven’t picked a winner since the Waste Management, despite the fact that we’ve had awesome winner after winner all season.
- A few weeks ago, I was telling others that I thought Rory was going to run away with this thing. I’m overreacting by not even mentioning him in the major plot lines for this, but I can’t get those two weeks in Europe out of my head. I’m for sure not counting him out, but I’m saying the same type of things I was saying before the Masters: I just don’t think he’s going to win. There’s really no point in making a statement like that, because the odds are obviously on my side, and I can only look dumb for saying it, but I’m at the point where I trust Spieth more week to week to contend than I do Rory. I’m not alone in thinking Rory’s A-game is better than anyone’s any-game, but I don’t think it’s fair to expect that week to week.
- Looking back at some old U.S. Opens, the 2008 event obviously sticks out above them all. Everyone points to the birdie on 18 on Sunday to tie Rocco, but my favorite moment is the eagle on 18 on Saturday. Watch this video, and tell me that there has ever been crowd noise louder than this on a golf course:
- The last two American winners of this event are Webb Simpson and Lucas Glover. That ’09 title should have gone to Duval.
- (Going full @pftcommenter with this take): On that note, four of the last five trophies have gone overseas. This begs the only real question: How long until we take this event to Alabama and Mike Davis invokes HB 56 and doesn’t allow illegal immigrants in the field? It’s time to protect our borders. (There’s going to be someone that takes this bullet seriously, isn’t there).
- I enjoyed this piece from Chris Chaney on Tiger as well.
- Lahiri/Jaidee Watch: Anirban comes in ranked 45th in the world, yet is somehow 500/1 to win. Jaidee is ranked 33rd in the world (!), and is being sold at 300/1. The books straight up tell you how big of a farce the OWGR are.
- If you want to join a U.S. Open pool with a chance to win some free NLU t-shirts, check this out.
- As mentioned above, I’m assuming that Fox is going to maintain the U.S. Open tradition of showing a complete train wreck from the dude that’s already eight shots off the pace who just took two chips and four putts to finish the 11th hole. Don’t be surprised if Cleatus comes jumping onto the screen to count out the dude’s knockout:
Enjoy the week and catch us on twitter during coverage @NoLayingUp.
(cover photo courtesy of Fansided)