The long-awaited Chambers Bay debut is finally here, but despite the tremendous amount of course insight and player sound bites about the inimitable layout along Puget Sound, hardly anyone is really sure just how it will play.
The Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design has been described as everything from a “complete farce” (Ian Poulter) to a “pure links” (Jordan Spieth). At the 2010 U.S. Amateur, the only other USGA event Chambers Bay has hosted, Jordan Spieth shot 83 and Russell Henley shot 82 during stroke-play qualifying. John Peterson shot 73 and described the course set up as “obnoxious.”
At this point, only USGA executive director Mike Davis and Mother Nature have any clue how Chambers Bay will play. In an attempt to pick a winner this week, we’re focusing on current form with an instinctive nod to short game and putting statistics. The wild undulations of Chambers’ large greens will demand imagination, patience and precision on the various shots required on and around the greens.
Here are our picks, along with odds from GolfOdds.com.
Brandt Snedeker 40/1
Snedeker’s season has been quietly spectacular. His victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on arguably the toughest greens on Tour has been all but forgotten. Aside from that W, Sneds has five top-10 finishes, including a T2 and a T6 in his last two events (Crowne Plaza and Byron Nelson). He’s third on Tour in scrambling at 66.8 percent, sixth in strokes gained/putting, fourth in distance of approach from 50-75 yards (averaging 8 feet, 11 inches) and 14th in scoring average at 70.16. It’s simply a matter of time until Snedeker wins a major.
Brooks Koepka 50/1
The 25-year-old snagged his first PGA Tour win only a few months ago at TPC Scottsdale and is fresh off a somewhat disappointing T3 last week at the FedEx St. Jude where he led after 36 holes. Koepka is 10th on Tour in driving distance, an imperative stat at Chambers Bay. Jason Day said there are a few holes where “if you can carry it over 300-plus yards, you can definitely have maybe four clubs shorter than if you couldn’t carry it 300-yards plus.” Koepka is also ranked eighth in strokes gained/putting, first in holes per eagle (57.9), sixth in scoring average (69.9) and sixth in scrambling from outside 30 yards (41.9 percent). His best finish in a major is T4 at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
Hideki Matsuyama 30/1
Matsuyama has eight top 10s this season including a T5 in his last start at the Memorial and a fifth-place finish at the Masters. He’s seventh on Tour in scrambling at 65.45 percent and second in strokes gained/tee-to-green. Among other statistical highlights: third in total driving, 13th in scoring average (70.15), third in approach shot distance to the hole from 100-125 yards (14 feet, 11 inches) and fifth in that stat from 175-200 yards (29 feet, 1 inch). Like Snedeker, Matsuyama’s moment is coming—it’s just a matter of when.
Phil Mickelson 15/1
Lefty turned 45 on Tuesday of U.S. Open week, and among the many happy birthday wishes were thoughts that his chances at winning that elusive U.S. Open trophy are as slim as ever. We disagree. Mickelson thrives on courses like this where his short game imagination can run wild (see Muirfield in 2013). He won the Scottish Open the week before that British Open victory and finished T3 after a final-round 65 last week in Memphis. Phil also has the lowest cumulative score over the last two majors, along with a T2 at the Masters and a T4 at the Wells Fargo last month.
With Mickelson, the stats hardly matter at this point. He wants a U.S. Open title more than any golfer wants any trophy, and Chambers Bay may wind up to be just the right fit.