USGA thinking about changing par at Chambers Bay

USGA thinking about changing par at Chambers Bay

Paula Creamer birdied 18 to finish one stroke off the lead.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — The U.S. Open typically plays as a par 70, which requires converting a couple of par 5s into par 4s. There are a few par 71s, such as Torrey Pines, where USGA setup man Mike Davis wisely decided to leave the 18th as a par 5, leading to one of the most memorable finishes.

Par has not been decided for Chambers Bay outside Seattle, site of the 2015 U.S. Open.

It could be a par 70. It could be a par 71.

It very likely will be both.

“You can’t change par in the middle of a tournament,” Tiger Woods said, thinking aloud as he tried to process the possibility.

Considering that Davis isn’t afraid to break the unwritten rules, the possibility is very real.

“One thing I’m absolutely positive we’ll do in the future, perhaps in 2015 at Chambers Bay, is play a hole certain days as a par 4, and certain days as a par 5,” Davis said in a telephone interview over the weekend.

Davis mentioned the first and 18th holes at Chambers Bay, which he felt could be played as either a par 4 or a par 5.

“We would hate to make a decision one way or another, because they could be such a good par 5, and such a good par 4,” he said. “I would hate to give up playing it multiple ways because we have a set par.”

That could be a first – a U.S. Open where par for the four days would be 282.

“Par is just a number,” Paul Goydos said with a shrug when told of the concept. “All you care about is the total score. What wins is 277, not 3 under or 5 under.

He figured big hitters would have an advantage on a par 4 that measured 525 yards, such as the seventh hole at Bethpage Black. Turn that into a par 5, and big hitters still would have an advantage by reaching it in two with less club.

“Someone will complain either way,” Goydos said.

There surely could be some complaints on this one, for no other reason than trying to change par once the tournament starts.

“It might be perceived as goofy,” Davis conceded. “But all we’re looking for his the low 72-hole score. That doesn’t change.”

GOING IN STYLE: Even as his British Open prospects starting looking good, Paul Goydos decided against reworking his schedule to play in the John Deere Classic so he could take the charter to Turnberry. Players are to make a charitable donation to ride on the charter, and it’s far less than first-class airfare to Britain.

Goydos played in a charity event for Steve Flesch on Monday in northern Kentucky, then went home to California for the week. He would get a little time off, even if it would cost him a lot more money.

With that came a shrug and perspective.

“If you’re concerned about the amount of airfare, maybe I should just go to Milwaukee,” he said. “No disrespect whatsoever to Milwaukee. My point is, maybe you should be playing somewhere else.”

His hotel room at Turnberry was going to run him about $800 a night, with a minimum stay. Goydos did some quick math – remember, he was a substitute teacher – and figured the trip would cost him about $20,000.

Sounds like the old days, when some players actually lost money by playing the British Open.

“Well, back then they went by boat,” he said.

He played the British Open for the first time last year, missed the cut, and called it the coolest tournament he ever played.

“I would look forward to eating lunch with the spectators,” Goydos said before he qualified. “Remember that big concession they had by the practice green at Birkdale? Ate fish and chips there probably four times that week. Loved it.”

GRADUATED ROUGH: Mike Davis of the USGA first introduced graduated rough at Winged Foot in 2006, and it has been a standard at the U.S. Open ever since. He’ll have his work cut out for him at Congressional in 2011.

Staggering the height of rough requires a lot of property, and there was plenty of it at places like Torrey Pines and Bethpage Black. Congressional, however, is a traditional, tree-lined course. The trees on some holes are about 10 yards from the fairway.

In other words, there’s not a lot of room.

“Some courses work better than others for that, but the answer is we’ll definitely graduate it,” said Davis, who will be coming to Congressional in two weeks for early planning. “Some places it will be tough for sure, not only with the trees, but with some of the holes being parallel, you need to move spectators. So we’re not going to get the width we want.

“The ideal situation is to never have a player hit it outside the ropes unless they really, really miss one.”

One thing Davis knows for certain – the sixth hole, which was a par 4 at the ’97 U.S. Open and in the last three years at the AT&T National, will play as a par 5. There already is a new tee to add significant length, and Davis said the pond wrapping around half the green makes it more prudent to accept wedge instead of 3-iron or hybrid.

“I hated it as a par 4,” he said of the ’97 U.S. Open. “It’s not shaped for a par 4.”

Congressional still will play as a par 70, with the plan to move the tee slightly forward on the 16th and convert that to a par 4.

“That would be the classic par 4 1/2,” Davis said. “The green is somewhat receptive to a long shot. If you made it a par 5, nobody would argue that it’s a great par 5.”

DIVOTS: Tiger Woods’ victory at the AT&T National was the 25th tournament on the PGA Tour that he has won. It was his first time winning somewhere new since Quail Hollow in 2007. … The latest suggestion from Joe Ogilvie? “I think a player ought to be on the executive committee of the USGA,” said Ogilvie, still perplexed at the various dates when new grooves rules take effect. … Maryland was the 15th state where Woods has won on tour. … Neither of the LPGA Tour’s major champions this year, Brittany Lincicome and Anna Nordqvist, are among the top 10 on the money list.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods’ last five PGA Tour victories in stroke play have been by one shot, the longest streak of his career.

FINAL WORD: “I don’t know and I don’t care. I won’t be here. I’ll be 100 years old by then.” – Fred Couples, who turns 50 in September, on what changes can be expected at Congressional for the 2011 U.S. Open.

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