Newsmaker of the Year, No. 9: Chambers Bay

By Will GrayDecember 9, 2015, 1:00 pm

Some likened it to golf on the moon. Others compared the greens to some of their favorite vegetables.

Like it or not, the USGA’s decision to send its most prestigious championship to Chambers Bay was certainly a grand experiment. Forged out of a former rock quarry along the Puget Sound, the course didn’t have the history of most other major venues. It also didn’t have much green grass – or any grass at all in some parts - as more than a few players were quick to point out.

USGA executive director Mike Davis was seen as the visionary behind bringing a U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, and he certainly didn’t release the reins once tournament week arrived. The course offered Davis a malleable setup and he took full advantage, creating a layout that was part golf, part pinball. In his most-discussed setup move of the week, Davis flipped the par on Nos. 1 and 18 from round to round, drawing the ire of many in the field in the process.

Beyond the quirks and the browned-out aesthetic that had viewers adjusting their television sets, the tournament got one thing right: it provided a deserving champion. While we may have been within one errant drive of “Branden Grace, U.S. Open champion,” in the end it was Jordan Spieth who walked away with the hardware, a result that in many ways validated the choice of Chambers as host venue. The best rose to the top, just as it had there in 2010 when top-ranked Peter Uihlein won the U.S. Amateur.

Top 10 Newsmakers of 2015: The full list

But more so than most tournaments, this Open was arguably marked more by who lost than who won. Spieth captured his second straight major, sure, but this will forever be known as Dustin’s Folly. It seemed from his opening-round 65 that this place was ideally suited for Dustin Johnson, a brawny layout that matched his game and accentuated its strengths. He seemed in great position deep into the weekend, well beyond the point at which he had fallen away in previous majors, and carried a share of the lead into the final round.

And it was still his tournament when he strode to the 72nd green, surveying an eagle putt to win and assured of a playoff with Spieth had he simply two-putted from inside 20 feet. But his first putt missed, and the next one did too, and suddenly Johnson hurried off into the sunset, his fiancée and newborn son at his side, without even bothering to collect his runner-up medal.

It all made for a memorable conclusion, but Chambers Bay earned a spot on this list for more than just the tournament’s final stanza. Player criticism over the course layout, somewhat of an annual tradition at the season’s second major, was louder and more pointed than at any venue since the water hoses were spotted at Shinnecock Hills 11 years ago.

Billy Horschel became the poster boy for anti-Chambers vitriol, capping his final-round press conference by proclaiming that he had “lost respect” for the USGA. Those sentiments were also echoed by Chris Kirk, while Henrik Stenson said the splotchy, barren greens were like “putting on broccoli.” Rory McIlroy went one step further, likening them to cauliflower – according to McIlroy, they weren’t green enough to be broccoli.

Even local favorite Michael Putnam – who played the first-ever round at Chambers Bay – derided the putting surfaces, adding that the greens should be switched entirely to poa annua before the tournament ever returns.

And it probably will return, too. Future Open venues are booked through 2024, but all signs point to Chambers Bay being seriously considered as the host in 2025.

Aside from an eventful final round, the course also provided plenty of highlights – and lowlights – throughout the week. There was Louis Oosthuizen’s closing 29, a furious rally that allowed him to earn runner-up honors despite a disastrous opening round. And there was Jason Day, felled by a mid-round bout of vertigo and pushed to his limit while playing some of the best golf of his career.

Day’s watershed moment came months later at the PGA Championship, but it was here – parked for the week in an RV just steps from the driving range – that the Aussie steeled his nerves in the face of an intense physical battle.

And of course there was Tiger Woods, who was the last man on that range Wednesday evening, trying to dig answers from the pseudo-lunar dirt. He found none, bowing out with an opening 80 that was perhaps a worse round than even the score indicated. Woods capped it off by cold-topping a 3-wood into the “Chambers Basement,” a bunker Davis had explained just days earlier would not be in play all week. 

But Woods found it, although he found little else en route to a missed cut that became emblematic of his lost season.

Entering the week, few knew what to expect from this unseen layout carved far from the sport’s familiar path. By many metrics, it exceeded expectations. According to others, it was woefully underwhelming.

But regardless of personal opinions about Chambers Bay, one thing is certain: the course, and the tournament, were memorable.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

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."