UNIVERSITY PLACE, Washington (Reuters) - Former champion Graeme McDowell describes it as “a fantastic test” but other players are less effusive about the links-style Chambers Bay layout for this week’s U.S. Open.
The par-70 course that stretches along Puget Sound features the biggest elevation changes ever seen at a U.S. Open and with luck of the bounce likely to be commonplace on undulating fairways and greens, it will test players to the full.
“It’s a beautiful venue,” Swedish world number six Henrik Stenson told reporters while preparing for Thursday’s opening round in the second major of the year.
”It’s a golf course that’s a bit different from the normal U.S. Opens. There are a few deadly places out there, but if you avoid those ones, you should have a shot to up around the green most of the time.
“You’re going to get some good breaks, you’re going to get some bad breaks, and you just have to hang in there throughout the whole week if you want to do a good tournament.”
Northern Irishman McDowell, who grew up playing links golf and won the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, was lavish in his praise for a layout covered throughout by fescue grass, featuring massive fairways and towering sand dunes.
”The golf course is incredibly fast and fiery, as pure a links golf course as I think I’ve ever seen on this side of the Atlantic Ocean,“ said McDowell about the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design. ”I really, really like the golf course.
“It’s got a few holes which have me scratching my head, but mostly I think it’s a fantastic test.”
While Stenson and McDowell are among those players who have embraced Chambers Bay, there are plenty of detractors.
England’s Ian Poulter, before seeing this week’s venue, caused a Twitter stir when he posted: “Well several players have played Chambers Bay in prep for US Open. The reports back are its a complete farce. I guess someone has to win.”
American Morgan Hoffmann, who will be competing this week in his fourth U.S. Open, said: ”I think more than 50 percent are going to hate it; that’s what I’ve heard already.
“It’s just an advantage for me. I love this course. I just like that you have to be creative and there are so many shots around the green you can play. And there’s not just one way to play it. There are 50 ways to do it.”
The U.S. Open is renowned for the mental composure required by the players and its course set-up over the years has made it the most exacting of the four major tournaments.
“You can hit a great shot and the ball ends up in the wrong spot and if you take that the wrong way, you’re behind the eight-ball and you’re not really going to have a chance,” said American world number nine Rickie Fowler.
“You have to be able to accept it and move on.”
Editing by Larry Fine