HOW WILL IT PLAY?

HERE’S WHAT THE GUYS WHO PLAYED THE 2010 US AM­A­TEUR AT CHAM­BERS BAY HAVE TO SAY BY. ALEX MY­ERS

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents 6/15 - By Alex Mey­ers

Cur­rent pros de­scribe the Cham­bers Bay course they faced in the 2010 US Am­a­teur.

Cham­bers Bay has never been the host of a PGA Tour-level event, but it won’t be a mys­tery to ev­ery­one in the field at this year’s US Open. A group of young play­ers got to ex­pe­ri­ence the course un­der tour­na­ment con­di­tions at the 2010 US Am­a­teur. What do those guys know that the rest of the field will have to fig­ure out?

“The best thing about Cham­bers Bay was the amount of cre­ativ­ity that we had to use,” says Peter Uih­lein, the 2010 cham­pion. “The con­cept of aim­ing away from the pins and us­ing slopes to get the ball close to the hole was awe­some.”

Sure, the guy who wins the tour­na­ment usu­ally loves the course. But apart from a gen­eral feel­ing that Cham­bers Bay played too firm dur­ing those two days of stroke play in Au­gust – some­thing USGA ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Mike Davis ac­knowl­edges – re­views were al­most uni­ver­sally pos­i­tive. Mor­gan Hoff­mann calls the course “cool.” Nick Tay­lor uses the word “fun.” It al­most made you won­der if th­ese guys were de­scrib­ing a US Open course or a trip to the Space Nee­dle in nearby Seat­tle. And this year’s new­com­ers could walk away with sim­i­lar opin­ions, pro­vided they’re pre­pared for a dis­tinct test.

“It’s def­i­nitely go­ing to sur­prise a lot of the guys who haven’t seen it be­fore or don’t know much about it,” says Pa­trick Cant­lay, who lost to Uih­lein in the semi­fi­nals. “Guys freak out when it’s dif­fer­ent and it’s not what they’re ex­pect­ing.”

“You have to have a very open mind go­ing in,” says Max Homa, a quar­ter­fi­nal­ist in 2010. “I tried to do a good job of walk­ing the course. I tried to look at ev­ery hole with a bird’s-eye view in my head. Where does the designer want you to land it? Where are the side­boards? You have to have a wide eye and look at it in an un­con­ven­tional way.”

The US Open’s old “fair­ways and greens” adage doesn’t al­ways hold true at this links that’s more like a course you’d ex­pect to see in the Open rota.

“Some­times you have to miss a green to make par,” Hoff­mann says. “The fair- ways are so good and tight you can play what­ever type of shot you want.”

Play­ers will also have plenty of op­tions off the tee with wide fair­ways and a driv­able par 4. But just be­cause Cham­bers Bay won’t play like a nor­mal US Open doesn’t mean it won’t take a toll on the field. The scor­ing av­er­age was 79.25 on the Open course in the two-stroke-play rounds for the 2010 Am­a­teur, when Cham­bers Bay was a par 71. A numbe r of bright stars – Brooks Koepka (81), Rus­sell Hen­ley (82) and Jor­dan Spi­eth (83) – failed to qual­ify for match play.

“It’s just hard,” Koepka says. “You can’t re­lax on one shot. You can’t take a shot off. You can’t take a sec­ond off.”

“Top-five tough­est set­ups I’ve played,” says Justin Thomas, whose 69 in 2010 matched Todd White for the low­est score at Cham­bers Bay on Day 2, when no one else broke par there (two cour­ses were used). The day be­fore, a 68 by Pa­trick Reed, a 69 by Pa­trick Rodgers and a 70 by Cant­ley were the only sub-par rounds on the Open course.

MCIL­ROY, STEN­SON AND MICK­EL­SON

So what type of player should we ex­pect to suc­ceed at Cham­bers Bay? Most of the golfers we talked to were re­luc­tant to pre­dict a win­ner, but all agreed that be­ing long off the tee, hav­ing a high ball flight, and pos­sess­ing an imag­i­na­tive short game will be an ad­van­tage. The three names that did come up? Rory McIl­roy, Hen­rik Sten­son and six-time Open run­ner-up Phil Mick­el­son.

The tim­ing of this new US Open venue might be per­fect for Mick­el­son’s quest to com­plete the ca­reer Grand Slam. His re­cently found love of links golf trans­lated into a Bri­tish Open victory at Muir­field in 2013, and he’ll turn 45 two days be­fore this tour­na­ment starts. (Hale Ir­win is the old­est US Open win­ner at 45 years, 15 days in 1990.) For now, Cham­bers Bay might lack his­tory, but if Mick­el­son could break through, that would cease to be a prob­lem.

“I think a player who plays a lot by feel, like Phil, has a good shot there,” says Scott Lan­g­ley, a quar­ter­fi­nal­ist in 2010. “Some­body who sees op­tions other guys don’t see and goes for it.”

David Chung lost to Peter Uih­lein in the 2010 US Am­a­teur fi­nal

at Cham­bers Bay.

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