Tour & News

U.S. Open 2015: 8 Things To Know Before The Tournament Begins

Holly Sonders on Whether Putting Will Win 2015 U.S. Open
It can usually be said that whoever putts best wins the U.S. Open. After seeing Chambers Bay, Holly Sonders weighs in on whether she things that'll be the case in 2015.

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash.—The 115th United States Open is about to begin here at Chambers Bay. If you’re playing along at home, that’s it in the upper left corner of your “Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego?” map. While we’re at it, Waldo, wave to the people.

Anyway, here are my U.S. Open conclusions and observations:

1) USGA President Thomas O’Toole marveled at the excitement building about this week’s course and said, “To think that we’ve done this 114 times and never been to this region.” Yeah, I always thought some of the folks at the USGA were slow learners…

2) Counterintuitive may be the key to Chambers Bay. American golfers aren’t used to fescue greens. Tournament director Mike Davis said they’ve discovered that as the fine fescue grass dries during a sunny day, the greens actually increase in speed. It’s always been a given in golf that greens slow during the day as they grow infinitesimally. These get faster and smoother as the day wears on.

“When I started at the USGA 25 years ago, I was told early on that greens never speed up,” Davis said. “We’re been proven wrong here.” Not the first time for that, either…

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3) Later may be better. Pros always want a morning time to get fresher, smoother, better greens to putt on. Chambers Bay is such a wild card, Tiger Woods said he was actually glad he got a late time (mid-afternoon Thursday, 2:28) so he could see how the course was playing on television before he goes out to play. Why wouldn’t you watch the telecast if you have an afternoon time? You might learn the line on a putt you’ll have later. This is fairly obvious but just a reminder that Tiger doesn’t miss any tricks when it comes to golf…

4) Firm greens and fairways, fine fescue putting surfaces, very undulating greens, lots of elevation changes—Chambers Bay is a different kind of Open venue. Davis, the man in charge of setting it up, said, “I hope we don’t overdo it.” You hope? Who’s in charge here? He should’ve said, “We won’t overdo it and I’ll make sure of it.”…

5) The USGA announced that it has bumped the Open’s purse up to $10 million. Now it’s equal to the Masters, which was $8 million in 2013, $9 million last year and up to $10 this year. It’s turning into an arms race, except in this you use your arm to reach deeper into your wallet. It also matches the bonus for the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup series. So yup, the U.S. Open is now just as important as the FedEx Cup. (Send my check to the usual address, Commissioner Finchem. Thanks, buddy.)…

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6) The most remarkable feat related to Open week had to do with Barbara Nicklaus receiving the USGA’s prestigious Bob Jones Award, given annually to someone who demonstrates spirit, personal character and respect for the game. She was a very deserving winner and learned about it from her famous husband before they were about to go cruising on their boat.

“He kept this a secret for two weeks,” Barbara Nicklaus said in press conference. “You have to know that in our family we have a motto that we don't tell Jack anything that we don't want the world to know.” There was laughter in the pressroom.

“Two weeks!” she added for effect. This just in: Jack Nicklaus is a blabbermouth…

7) What does Germany’s Martin Kaymer have to do to get some attention? Easily win a U.S. Open by five shots or something? Wait, that didn’t work, either. I can’t think of a recent defending Open champion, including Scott Simpson, who came into the next year’s Open with a lower profile. Golf, like any sport, is about what you’ve done lately. Kaymer hasn’t done much. In seven PGA Tour starts in 2015, he missed three cuts (including the Masters) and has no top-30 finishes. If that counterintuitive thing is legit, that probably means he’s your winner this week…

8) If you’re still wondering at home why players were bitching about this course, it’s mainly the greens. Sweden’s Henrik Stenson discussed a few of them and concluded, “The 18th is probably as busy a green as I've ever seen,” he said. Translated from polite golf talk: The only thing missing from the 18th green is a windmill and a free game for holing it in the clown’s mouth. The action starts Thursday. Judge for yourself.

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