Peter Kostis: 3 of 2015's Major Venues Will Have a Linksy Feel
In a sense, there will only be two majors in 2015: the Masters and the British Open—with the latter being played not once but three times. The U.S. Open comes to Chambers Bay, a links-style course near Seattle. The PGA Championship will be played at Whistling Straits, another linksstyle course on Lake Michigan in Kohler, Wis. And the real Open Championship returns to St. Andrews in Scotland, the ultimate links course. The most interesting aspect about holding major championships at linksstyle courses is the weather. You never know what Mother Nature will bring. Look at Chambers Bay. I did some consulting there with designer Robert Trent Jones Jr., and I can promise that the course will play like a true links. Don't expect a traditional U.S. Open setup with 22-inch-wide fairways, heavy rough and lightning-fast greens this June. Chambers Bay will be fast and firm, with wide landing areas. The green-complex designs won't allow for superfast green speeds because the contours are too severe, and guys who just want to hit from point A to point B and make a two-putt par could have difficulties. Players will need to use their imagination to shape shots that find the fairway.
In July, we jet to Scotland for the real British Open at St. Andrews. The course is designed to accommodate extreme wind and rain. If conditions are calm, the course is gettable. Players can be aggressive, and friendly weather could yield a record-breaking round of 62—or lower. But if the rain falls sideways, the Old Course will test players' resilience as much as their swings.
This singular season of multiple "British Opens" concludes at Whistling Straits, which is a tremendous maj or venue. I love the course's visual appeal, and if the wind blows hard off Lake Michigan, players will have to hit the ball even more solidly. In 2010, in a dramatic finish at Whistling Straits, Martin Kaymer beat Bubba Watson in a playoff, and a 21-year-old Rory McIlroy finished one stroke back. It's no surprise that all three are supreme ballstrikers. I expect more drama in August.
The big question is: Who do these venues benefit? I think the power players will be favorites, even more than usual. Driver won't be needed on every hole, but a strong, piercing ball flight is advantageous on each course. Golf is a game of awareness and adjustment, and this year's host sites will be a great test of those qualities.
McIlroy has proven he can play well on any track, and he drives as well as anyone. The 2015 major venues also fit the game of Bubba Watson—if he can control his emotions. Adam Scott's swing is world-class, but is his short game and recovery ability on links courses up to the challenge? The ultimate question mark is Tiger Woods. If he's healthy, his ballstriking, short-game and mental toughness are strong enough to bring success on all three courses. It should be a great year. Get ready for a British invasion!
KOSTIS TWITTER TIP: POSTURE MAKES PERFECT
Stuck indoors in a cold climate but want to keep your game sharp? Practice your posture. It's an important part of the swing that too few weekend players work on. Find a picture of a player whose address position you'd like to emulate, and for five minutes every day, set up in front of a mirror, hold the club and imitate that player's posture. No need to make full swings. If you turn posture practice into a habit this winter, your swing will be all thawed out when you're back on the course in the spring.
Got a swing question for Peter Kostis? Tweet him at @peterjkostis