Jordan Spieth wins a difficult U.S. Open

If you watched the U.S. Open golf championship, you may have thought you were watching the British Open. However, don’t be fooled – the Chambers Bay course is really in the state of Washington. Jordan Spieth won the U.S. Open with an overall score of 5-under par and he becomes only the sixth golfer to win both the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year.

On television, the course looked very much like the links courses of Scotland; rolling hills, beside the ocean shore, with few trees, high rough and a lot of brown fescue grass.

Many of the golfers complained about the course, but the USGA loves setting up the U.S. Open course to be difficult. According to the USGA, if nobody breaks par then the course is just right. Well, Chambers Bay was just what the USGA ordered. There was even a train going by from time to time as the golfers were concentrating on their next putt.

USGA President Thomas O’Toole, Jr., said on the telecast on Sunday the USGA was very happy with the selection of Chambers Bay.

“We stepped outside the box with this selection, to bring a U.S. Open to a course like this, to a place that we had never been in 114 years; a great choice and it’s been an exciting week,” said O’Toole.

As typically is the case, the course was set up differently each day, but at Chambers Bay the USGA was able to differ the distance of the course by more than 200 yards from one day to the next. The final round on Sunday was the shortest the course was set up in the four rounds of the tournament. Ten of the holes were an average of 30 yards shorter on Sunday than they were during the third round on Saturday.

“We had flexibility here, even in yardages and also in pars on holes,” said O’Toole. “There’s a lot of excitement between the 15th tee and the house, and one of those of course was making the 18th hole a par 5.”

Indeed. In fact, the USGA may have made that decision after Spieth complained after round two that playing the 18th hole as a par-four “was the dumbest hole I’ve ever played.”

The plan was to make No. 18 a par-five on Thursday and Saturday, and par-four on Friday and Sunday. However, after the third round, Spieth reiterated what he said the day before, in not looking forward to seeing the final hole as a par-four in the final round. He admitted his plan was to possibly play the 18th hole by driving the ball up the adjacent 1st fairway. The USGA didn’t like that idea, so they decided to keep No. 18 a par-five on Sunday.

“If you don’t think that players have any sort of influence over course setup, this is a perfect example where a player has voiced his discontent with a particular hole and how it’s been set up and I think the USGA has responded, amidst all of the scrutiny and criticism of that golf course and the setup has endured this week from both players and the media,” Notah Begay said Sunday morning on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive.

USGA Executive Director Mike Davis denied the decision was based on Spieth’s comments. Davis claimed the change came because of a weather forecast that called for a left-to-right crosswind on the hole that could decide the winner of the national championship.

Greg Norman, one of the commentators on the telecast, said he talked to many fans while walking the course on Saturday, and “100 percent of everyone was just so enthusiastic and over the moon about the U.S. Open Championship being here.”

O’Toole responded, “You see it, not just here on site, but everywhere I think you all went this past week, you saw energy from people, that I’d say some aren’t even golfers, but the fact that we brought a national championship to the region is a fabulous thing and they knocked it out of the park. They’ve supported it, they’ve been here, they’ve been vocal, and the energy is as good as any I’ve seen in my U.S. Open time.”

Here in the Tulsa area, we may be spoiled to have so many top-notch golf courses that have hosted big tournaments over the years. Southern Hills Country Club has hosted the U.S. Open, PGA Championship and the Tour Championship. Tulsa Country Club has hosted the NCAA Women’s Championship and the LPGA John Q. Hammons Invitational for a few years before it moved to Meadow Brook Country Club, and the Golf Club of Oklahoma in Broken Arrow hosted the Ben Hogan and Hooters Tours a few times in the 1990s.

So we’re very familiar with good-looking, difficult golf courses, and to many local observers, the Chambers Bay course came across as almost a farce, with the dead grass, gray sand bunkers, a noisy train, and fairways that slope more than 20-degrees from one side to the other.

Will Chambers Bay ever host a major championship again?

Maybe, but it certainly won’t be hosting a U.S. Open any time soon. The USGA has announced host golf courses through 2023 and Chambers Bay is not on the list. Neither is Southern Hills. However, it is expected that Southern Hills could be awarded the U.S. Open in 2024 or 2025. I certainly hope so.