UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wa. – An agonizingly long wait is almost a footnote in golfing history.
In just a few hours, the United States Golf Association will introduce the world to a competition played out on a piece of property that was a virtual wasteland less than 10 years ago.
With fewer than 24 hours remaining before Michael Putnam hits the first tee shot of the 115th U.S. Open, Mike Davis, the USGA Executive Director, addressed the media on Wednesday morning.
All systems are go for what should be the most memorable four (or five) days of golf ever played in the Pacific Northwest.
“First of all, let me start out by saying we’re indeed ready,” Davis said. “This is the moment, I think, (when) I first visited Chambers Bay or it was called Chambers Creek at the time, some ten years ago. And looking over the fence into what was really a discarded old mine with some trash in it, some overgrown areas and big piles of sand, to think that roughly ten years later here we are with a national Open Championship really is amazing.”
Despite the land being filled with potential blemishes, Davis hand-picked the course to join a small list of public courses to host the USGA’s signature event.
On Wednesday, his outlook was as bright as the sunshine outside.
“We’re blessed with wonderful weather,” he said. “It’s not only been wonderful this week and with the forecast being great, but the month of May was terrific for our operations group setting up for the championship. It was really the driest and warmest I believe on record going back to 1850.
“But that’s certainly had some benefits for the golf course, too. We’ve got a nice firm and fast golf course. We weren’t truly — we didn’t know what to expect this year, coming in, whether it was going to be really a green view or now it has become more of a tan with some greens in there.
“But it has been great. And from a setup standpoint and really presenting the golf course for a championship test, we couldn’t be happier.”
The weekend forecast calls for mostly dry conditions, with a 10 percent chance of rain on Friday, and some light afternoon winds. The temperature should stay in the 70s for most of the four-day tournament (well, five days if there is a tie after 72 holes).
CALL HIM ‘ACE’ — Cody Gribble got a roar from the crowd when he hit a couple of tee shots from the upper tee on No. 9 to within 6 feet of the hole on Wednesday. Practice partner Denny McCarthy answered the challenge and then won the gallery over.
“I didn’t think there was any way I was going to match it,” McCarthy said. “But the crowd was going wild for him.”
McCarthy stepped up and hit a tee shot that he said “looked like it was never going to leave the pin.”
“One of the guys behind me said ‘Great swing. That looks really good.’”
The 5-iron shot from 202 yards out and into the wind landed about 10 feet short of the hole and rolled in for his hole-in-one.
“The whole place went wild down there,” McCarthy said. “And we went wild in the tee box. It was pretty cool.”
McCarthy got a standing ovation and tossed his ball into the gallery.
JACK ON CHAMBERS BAY – You can add Jack Nicklaus to the long list of golfing enthusiasts who believe the USGA hit a home run when selecting still-a-baby Chambers Bay Golf Club to host the 2015 U.S. Open.
When asked about his first impressions of the links-style course, Nicklaus paused a few seconds before commenting.
“That’s a two edged sword in many ways,” he said. “You’ve got to try a new venue. And if that doesn’t work out the way you want it because you don’t really know about it, you get egg on your face.
“Then again, you come to the Pacific Northwest, which has never had the U.S. Open, and the excitement is created here.”
Nicklaus, who holds a plethora of records, including 18 Major titles, visited the course during his visit to University Place area. He accompanied his wife, Barbara, who received the Bob Jones Award, said and found it “really interesting.” “I have no idea how it will play or what it will do. But frankly, I really like the looks of it. I thought it was a very, very appealing golf course from the eye. As I say, I haven’t played it, so I don’t know how it plays.”
AUSSIE DOWN AND OUT — Australian golfer Clint Rice was forced to stop playing a practice round at Chambers Bay on Tuesday when a USGA official told him that alternates in the U.S. Open field are not permitted to practice on the Open course.
Rice, a teaching pro based in Chicago, was playing with fellow Aussie and 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy when he was stopped on the fourth hole. Rice had misunderstood the guideline that allows alternates to use only the practice facilities — they cannot play on the course.
ESPN.com reported earlier that Rice was kicked off the course. Rather, his clubs were taken away.
“It’s a bit silly if you’re not holding anybody up or interfering with their practice,” Ogilvy told the Australian Associated Press. “I get it if there are no spots available in the field but that wasn’t the case here.”
Rice, 34, from Tasmania, went through local and sectional qualifying and failed to earn an automatic spot, but was told by the USGA that he was one of the first alternates. The USGA does not make its alternate list public.
“What happens if he gets in on Thursday and hasn’t seen the course?” Ogilvy asked.
Chambers Bay is a new venue that USGA executive director Mike Davis has said would require numerous practice rounds for players to get familiar with.