UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Matt Kuchar rolled in a 20-footer for birdie on the eighth hole Thursday and heard only a few claps.
The fans here at Chambers Bay weren’t unappreciative of his efforts.
They just couldn’t see him.
Because the 614-yard par 5 runs along the property line at the top of the old gravel pit, it’s impossible for spectators to line the fairways. They can’t cram behind the green either, because there is not enough room and too much slope for a grandstand.
So for about 15 minutes, the players compete in only ambient noise.
“That’s certainly part of the niches of the golf course here,” Kuchar said.
Because of space constraints, there also are limited viewing areas on the fifth and 16th holes. So challenging is the walk at Chambers, the USGA doled out only a third of the inside-the-ropes media badges that it had last year at Pinehurst.
It adds up to an awkward championship venue for players and fans.
“A pair of binoculars is not a bad thing when you’re coming here to watch,” Henrik Stenson said.
The severe elevation changes and drastic design forced tournament officials to move rope lines away from the rough, for spectator safety. That leads many to climb onto sandy dunes or hills to watch the action, but that’s when the trouble begins. There have been several reported injuries.
“It is different than a normal Open in that it’s so spacious that we don’t have the same feel, because the people aren’t close like they normally are,” Phil Mickelson said. “They’re so far removed that it has a more spacious feel.”
Mickelson said that the situation is frustrating because his wife, Amy, wanted to follow along with his group but simply can’t keep up with all of the course's rope rerouting.
“The golf spectators are probably the most dedicated fans,” he said. “Any other sport you buy a ticket, you sit in a seat and you watch 100 percent of the action. In golf you buy a ticket, you’ve got to walk miles in rough territory and you see but a fraction of the event. So I give a lot of credit to the people who are out here.”