Chambers Bay A real Cinderella story to host 2015 US Open

By Erik PetersonJuly 8, 2009, 4:00 pm
chambers bay 15
The par-3 15th offers impressive views of the only tree at Chambers Bay

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – When the U.S. Golf Association announced last year that a fresh-faced, county-owned links course south of Seattle would host not one, but two of golf’s most prestigious championships, it was a head-scratcher to more than a few in the golfing world.
“A U.S. Open at a links course?” golfers pondered. “Has the USGA lost its mind?”
On the surface Chambers Bay is anything but U.S. Open-like: A links course built in 2007 on 100-percent fine fescue grass, it has as many trees on it (one) as community jogging trails running through it, and it's located in a not-so-golf-obsessed region of the Pacific Northwest.
Chambers Bay
Web site
How to get there
40 minutes south of SEA-TAC Airport on I-5. 2 1/2 hours north of Portland. Exit 130.
$169 - weekend
$109 - after 3:30 p.m.
How to play it
Book a tee time at their website or by calling 877-295-4657.
19th hole
A pint of Northwest beer on the patio overlooking the course is a pretty good way to unwind after your 7.5-mile jaunt around Chambers Bay.
But to the traditionally conservative, blue-blazered USGA executive committee, Chambers Bay has the perfect ingredients for a national championship… or two. It will host both the 2015 U.S. Open and 2010 U.S. Amateur.
Proof of its destiny, construction of the course hadn’t even been completed before Pierce County officials and architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr. knew they had something special. So with grass still growing and local taxpayers still questioning their investment, the county put a call in to the USGA.
“It’s not uncommon that we get calls from people who say, ‘We’re building a course and we think it’s good enough for a U.S. Open,’ ” said Mike Davis, USGA senior director of rules and competition. “But I remember a number of years ago when we got the call from the folks at Chambers Bay. When I heard it was in the Pacific Northwest, on the water, on nearly 1,000 acres, it really piqued my interest. And when I heard it was a sand pit and it was going to be a fine fescue course, we decided we better go out there and pay a visit.”
What Davis and the USGA found is something they’d only dreamed of – a course that was larger than Oakmont, as panoramic as Pebble, and as pliable as Silly Putty. Chambers Bay, they discovered, is a perfect storm of U.S. Open venues, and it’s a course Davis wishes other USGA venues could be more like.
“It might have as much flexibility as any U.S. Open venue we’ve ever had,” said Davis, adding that, “it’s tough, but in a different kind of way.”
Etched out of a former gravel mine on a hillside at the southeastern end of Puget Sound, Chambers Bay is characterized by large dunes, wide fairways and wispy rough. The course is designed to play hard and fast, a principle the USGA openly prefers.
“We like when the best in the world have to think about what happens when their ball hits the ground,” Davis said. “One true disappointment about Bethpage [site of the 2009 U.S. Open] was that players were essentially throwing darts. For the really good player, it doesn’t take as much skill to do that. Even if it rains at Chambers Bay it will still be firm, and we like it that way.”
chambers bay flag
At Chambers Bay, even the pin flags are unconventional. Their pocket-like look has caused the USGA to consider amending the Rules of Golf.
But while conditions will be firm, Davis made it clear that “firm doesn’t mean fast,” adding that because of the severity of the greens “they probably won’t be rolling any faster than 11 [on the Stimpmeter],” which is slow by U.S. Open standards. 
While it’s still too early to tell just how long the course will play, the first hole, a 498-yard par 4, will probably be one of the toughest; it plays into the prevailing wind and shares a fairway with the par-5 18th, akin to The Old Course at St. Andrews.
In fact, those two holes already have Davis’ creative juices flowing. He said he’s already tinkering with the idea of changing the par of these holes, mid-tournament. No. 1 could play as a par 4 one day and a par 5 the next. No. 18 would be vice versa, keeping the total par the same.
It’s further proof that Davis is unafraid to challenge the ways of old.
“We realized the wonderful architecture of those holes. All that matters is that we’re going to give away the trophy to the guy with the low score.”
While its bookends are indeed intriguing, so are Chambers Bay’s interior holes. The par 3s are a blend of short (No. 3, 165 yards) and long (No. 9, 227 yards), but all play downhill into the prevailing wind. The ninth hole is the most severe, and also the most exposed. Commit to your tee shot and hit it pure, or bogey beckons.
The back nine features a drivable par 4 (No. 12), a 600-yard par 5 (No. 18) and a par 3 (No. 15) with the previously mentioned one-and-only tree standing tall, with Puget Sound as the backdrop. The Lone Fir – as it’s known – is an iconic figure, and a subplot to Chambers Bay’s Cinderella story after it was vandalized in 2008.
It’s presumed that a mischievous youngster took a boy scout’s axe to the tree.
“There’s a three-mile public trail that runs through the course that’s used by many more people than the golf course,” said Chambers Bay’s general manager Matt Allen, who had just joined the staff when the tree was damaged. “The public outcry when the vandalism occurred – l can’t tell you how many phone calls I got from arborists, nature conservationists and just regular people who wanted to help.”
Just 12 months after local residents doubted Chambers Bay’s place in their community, they were donating their time to help maintain it.
For those residents who remain uninspired by the Lone Fir, the economic boon the surrounding area will receive from hosting a U.S. Open might help. Early estimates have the economic impact at $100 million ($40 million more than the 2001 Major League Baseball All-Star game in Seattle).
“It’s like hosting the Super Bowl for four days in a row,” said Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg.
Davis said that while taking on a new site has its challenges, the good outweighs the bad.
“There’s real appeal to go to different venues because it’s easy for us to get in that cookie-cutter method where you just narrow the fairways. I think that 2015 will be so different because the fairways and greens at Chambers Bay are firmer than at any U.S. Open.”
A deviation from the norm. Maybe the USGA hasn’t lost its mind after all.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.