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U.S. Open notebook: “Managing the firmness” is job No. 1 for USGA at Chambers Bay

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – The U.S. Open will have a different feel at Chambers Bay but the goal for the tournament remains the same: A thorough examination of the world’s best golfers to determine a worthy champion.

The course is playing firm and fast, precisely where United States Golf Association officials want it, said executive director Mike Davis, who oversees course set-up.

“Given the (warm and dry) forecast, by far the biggest focus would be managing the firmness,” Davis said. “You kind of wake up and dream of saying, ‘Let us control it, don’t give us a bunch of water so they’re throwing darts at the greens.’ We’ve got it.

“Now it’s our job to make sure we manage that.”

To do so, officials are taking moisture measurements throughout the day and using a firmness meter developed by USGA engineers.

Several players have stated in press conferences that course set-up will be critical and could influence the outcome.

“The pressure comes from making sure the golf course plays properly,” said Davis, stressing that there are numerous voices involved in the decision-making process. “Here we’ve got more unknowns. At Oakmont next year we have a really good idea how it’s going to play. Here we just don’t have as much history to go on and for that reason I think we have to be a bit more cautious.”

It’s anybody’s guess what it will take to win on a course that is new to the majority of the 156-player field. Some have speculated it’ll be closer to 5 over than 5 under. One oddsmaker listed the over/under winning score at 279.5, barely under par (280).

The course will play between 7,300 and 7,700 yards. The greens are running 11.5-12 on the Stimpmeter, roughly the same as the 2010 U.S. Amateur held at Chambers Bay. Davis noted that the greens are a fraction faster during the heat of the afternoon.

Nos. 1 and 18 can be played as par 4s or 5s. Players will be informed of the plan for those holes this morning.

“While it’s going to be different,” Davis said, “we are going to remain true to what a U.S. Open is and what it has been, a comprehensive test of shot-making skills, course management skills, ability to handle your nerves and, for anybody who has walked this, an endurance test as well.”

Long walk

Davis estimated that today’s first few threesomes will complete their rounds in 4 hours, 45 minutes, with 5-hour rounds likely to follow. That’s because it takes 21 minutes of walk time between greens to tees, compared to 13 minutes at Pinehurst last year. Golfers typically walk 7-8 miles navigating Chambers Bay.

McIlroy missed the cut in his last two events in Europe, which meant additional time to work with his trainer and fit in a visit to London.

“I was a tourist for three days and I did a lot of walking, which I didn’t know was great preparation for this place,” he said. “I probably walked 10 miles a day, so that helped.”

Putnam batting leadoff

Michael Putnam, who lives roughly one mile from the course, played in the first official round at Chambers Bay in 2007 and today he’ll hit the first tee shot in the tournament. He’s in the first group off No. 1 at 7 a.m.

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” said Putnam, whose older brother, Joel, will caddy. “They called me and asked if I wanted to come out and play the first official round. I think they wanted to see how this place actually played for a good professional golfer. They charted the whole round and it was a pretty neat experience.”

Putnam has played the course about 30 times. It’s been a busy few weeks for Putnam and Ryan Moore, who grew up nearby in Puyallup.

“It’s huge for players that are from here,” Moore said. “My home was 10-12 miles from here. This is a very golf-starved area, especially for professional golf. It’s huge to have an event like this for the rest of the world to see how great this area is.”


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