USGA director Mike Davis, who is in charge of the course setup during the U.S. Open, has warned players about the challenges this year’s Open at Chambers Bay will present. “The idea of coming in, playing two practice rounds and having your caddie just walk it and using your yardage book, that person’s done,” Davis said.
Tiger Woods is taking that warning to heart.
He spent more than three hours on each of the front and back nines during his visit to Chambers Bay on Monday and Tuesday. Having only hosted a U.S. Amateur in 2010, the course is an unknown to most Tour pros, and having been built on a sand and gravel mine, it has traditional links golf features that force a creative approach on every shot and knowledge of the layout will be an advantage.
“I thought that was interesting Mike would say something like that,” Woods said after a pro-am before this week’s Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. “When Mike says something like that you have to pay attention because he’s a smart guy. We spent a lot of time and did a lot of homework.”
Woods is a three-time U.S. Open champ (2000, 2002 and 2008) and was scouting out the site just a few days after Phil Mickelson did the same. He’s in the field at this week’s Memorial Tournament, his only tournament prep before he chases his 15th major in two weeks.
“It’s very challenging because Mike (Davis) has so many options,” Woods said. “We don’t see this even at the British Open because the greens aren’t banked like this.”
The last time we saw Woods, he was struggling with consistency at the Players Championship. He made a birdie on his last hole of the second round to make the cut, then carded a 75-72 on the weekend. Flashes of brilliance (18 birdies for the week) were mixed in with shots that were head-scratchingly poor (four doubles and a triple for the week).
Woods said he feels more confident entering this week compared to last month’s Players Championship.
“I feel good about the changes,” Woods said with a smile. “It’s still evolving, but it’s getting better.”
MORE U.S. OPEN: Can Chambers Bay Live Up To The Hype?
Due to injuries and poor play, the 39-year-old has been selective in his appearances so far in 2015. In April, he only played the Masters. In May, he only played the Players. The last time Woods completed multiple events in the same month was in September of 2013 when he played in the BMW Championship and Tour Championship.
Beginning with this event, it appears Woods is bucking that trend. When he announced his summer schedule, Woods said he planned to enter two events in June and three events in July, a drastic uptick from recent form and a self-described “busy” summer. Perhaps not for Jordan Spieth, who plays four straight weeks with regularity, but for Woods, it could signal a change in approach.
The Memorial is a good place to start.
Woods has had more success at Muirfield Village than any other player. He won the event three straight years from 1999-2001 and added two more victories in 2009 and 2012. Only Kenny Perry (three) has more than two wins at the tournament.
He hasn’t enjoyed similar success in recent years. Woods missed last year’s event due to his back surgery and finished T65 in 2013 with four consecutive rounds in the 70s.