How bad was Chambers Bay?


Rory McIlroy shows his frustration with Chambers Bay.

Rory McIlroy shows his frustration with Chambers Bay.

While it may have offered up a thrilling US Open finish, Chambers Bay certainly came in for a lot of criticism.

The Robert Trent Jones Jr-designed course didn't seem to be anybody's favourite, with former greats and current stars all making their feelings known.

Nine-time major winner Gary Player led the chorus of disapproval, labelling the 2015 US Open as the "most unpleasant" tournament he has ever seen.

"We're playing the US Open, this great championship... but this has been the most unpleasant golf tournament I've seen in my life," the 79-year-old told Golf Channel. "The man who designed this golf course had to have one leg shorter than the other.

"It is hard to believe that a man can miss the green by one yard and the ball ends up 50 yards down in the rough. This is a public course where we are trying to encourage people to come and play and get more playing the game. They are having a putt from 20 feet and they are allowing 20 feet right and 20 feet left.

"You don't bring the US Open to golf courses like this. This is devastating. To see a man miss the green by one yard and end up 50 yards down there, caddies falling and hurting their ankles and knees, players falling... this is terrible.

"You have got to give the architect the blame. It's impossible to play these golf courses. Did you see how these pros were three putting one after the other? Sergio (Garcia) three-putted the 18th to make the cut.

"I tell you, there have never been so many people to miss the cut that are so happy to go home."

One of the design team behind Chambers Bay, Jay Blasi, hit back at Player on Twitter, calling his opinion uninformed, but then Player was hardly alone in slating the venue.

Champion Jordan Spieth called the 18th hole "unbelievably stupid".

World No 1 Rory McIlroy joked the putting surfaces were not green enough to be broccoli - "They are more like cauliflower".

"Every year the US Open is very frustrating, apart from 2011," said McIlroy, who won by eight shots at Congressional four years ago. "I came off the green on the last there and I said to JP (Fitzgerald, his caddie), 'Thank God I've got one of these'.

"I'm glad my name is on the trophy at least once and I'll try to make it twice at some point."

Lee Westwood said most players were "too afraid" to say what they thought about the course in public

Henrik Stenson called the greens "borderline laughable".

"I kind of lost my patience on the eighth more than anything and hit a lovely shot into nine and was putting down on something that looked like the surface of the moon," said the Swede.

Billy Horschel said players had "lost respect" for tournament organisers and the US Open due to the poor conditions at Chambers Bay.

He said that while players were not expecting perfection, the fourth green was "God awful" and the hole on the 10th was "literally in dirt."

"I've been waiting for this moment all week," Horschel said after wrapping up on Sunday. "I can be up here for an hour and I'll keep going.

"I've had this debate on Twitter the last couple of days with people and it sounds like the players are whining and they're like, 'Well, you're playing for millions of dollars, you're playing for the US Open championship.

"And like I said, we're not looking for perfect greens. We're not looking for Memorial's greens or even last week in Memphis. But we're looking for something that's very consistent and this week they're not.

"Four is God awful. Ten is not much better where it was. That hole is in dirt. It's literally dirt. There's no grass around that hole. I understand Jordan (Spieth) is up on the leaderboard and he's making plenty of putts. But I'm a really good putter as well and I have not had a great week on the greens. And it's not due to the fact that my stroke is off or my speed is off, I've hit a lot of really good putts that have bounced all over the world.

"People out there think we complain a lot as players, and we don't. And when we do, I think we really need to be taken seriously on this. I think a lot of players, and I'm one of them, have lost some respect for the USGA and this championship this year for the greens."

Also of concern to many was that the course layout made viewing the action difficult for spectators.

"Here we are in the Pacific Northwest, where we haven't been since the late '90s for the PGA Championship, and the viewing is awful," Horschel added. "They tell the fans early in the week, 'well, just sit in the stands and watch golf.'

"When you're not able to get up close and watch championship-calibre players play a golf course, it's disappointing. And 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.

"To say that they built this golf course for the US Open is awful. And I heard today that Mike Davis (USGA executive director) had input in this golf course, which blows my mind even more that they would build a golf course and not think about the fans and the viewing aspect of it."

Player's comments in particular prompted course designer Trent Jones Jr. to defend himself and Chambers Bay.

"First of all, you have to understand that Gary is a competitor in the design business," says Jones. "He was a ruthless competitor in his playing days and at times he can be that way in the design business. We compete for jobs all over the world. I can tell you that I'm open to constructive criticism, but to make it personal is something I can't understand. What purpose does it serve to find fault with the USGA, with the men who set it up and with the design itself?"

Jones said the course was meant to be "not revolutionary, but evolutionary." The aim was to have sufficient length to test today's pros, plenty of width, and drier, firmer conditions to return an emphasis to the ground game.

So was Chambers Bay as bad as everyone said? The truth probably lies somewhere in between Player's scathing criticism, and Trent Jones Jr's impassioned defence.

There's no doubt some of the greens were not up to scratch, and Trent Jones Jr. admitted as much, but many of the players were also complaining about a lack of certainty when it comes to the fine fescue grasses and wild slopes characteristic of Chambers Bay.

In a sense, that lack of certainty, also found on links courses in the UK, was precisely what made the tournament exciting from a viewing perspective, and was in fact part and parcel of the course's design.

Players weren't meant to have the same degree of certainty they'd become accustomed to on most PGA Tour courses - certainly in plotting their way around the layout - yet when it comes to the greens, the world's best golfers needed - and deserved - a greater deal of reliability than what they got.

Chambers Bay may not be a course beyond saving, but the USGA might need more experience in dealing with the challenges a British links-style course provides.

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