UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – After closing out his U.S. Open, Billy Horschel stepped to the microphone in the interview area and flashed a wry smile.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment all week,” he said.
Plenty of players have criticized Chambers Bay and its setup this week, but none were as demonstrative in the middle of their rounds as was Horschel on Sunday. While often the negative comments seem to come from those struggling on the scorecard, Horschel actually turned in one of the best early rounds on Sunday, reaching 5 under through 12 holes before settling for a 3-under 67.
That didn’t stop him from criticizing the greens and calling out the tournament organizers after the final bell.
“I’ve lost respect for the USGA this week,” Horschel said.
Horschel tends to wear his emotions on his sleeve, and that was certainly the case during the final round. After missing a short putt on No. 6, he feigned a tomahawk chop of his putter into the green, and on No. 9 he swerved his hand left and right to mimic the unpredictable route of his missed birdie attempt.
“I’ve hit a lot of really good putts that have bounced all over the world. So it’s just frustrating,” Horschel said. “I played awesome golf today. I played out of my tail, out of my ass to shoot 3 under par. And I really felt like I should have shot 6, 7 or 8 under, but I wasn’t able to do that due to the fact that some of the putts I hit just hit some really bad spots on the greens and got off line and didn’t go in.”
Horschel joined the chorus of players criticizing the green conditions this week, noting that it was a “complete lie” that the putting surfaces simply looked worse on television than they actually performed. But he also harped on the fan experience, with the Pacific Northwest hosting a major championship for the first time since the 1998 PGA Championship at nearby Sahalee.
Chambers Bay offers a difficult hike for players and spectators alike, and most fans this week have been shepherded to grandstands atop dunes from which multiple holes can be seen. Following a single group for multiple holes from outside the ropes is a near impossibility, and fans are unable to access most of the par-5 eighth hole.
“When you’re not able to get up close and watch championship-caliber players play a golf course, it’s disappointing,” he said. “I feel like the fans got robbed this week being able to get up close to the players and see the shots we hit and see the course to the degree that we see it.”
He added: “For the architect…to say they built this golf course for the U.S. Open is awful. And I heard today that (USGA executive director) Mike Davis had input in this golf course, which makes it even – blows my mind even more that they would build a golf course and not think about the fans and the viewing aspect of it.”
Horschel believes the U.S. Open could someday return to Chambers Bay if the greens improve, but he implored Davis and others to heed the flood of criticism coming from the field.
“It’s a frustrating week for a lot of players,” he said. “We don’t complain a lot. You guys think, people out there think we complain a lot as players, but we don’t. And when we do, I think we really need to be taken seriously on this.”