Top Players Discuss Chambers Bay

2011 U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy drew comparisons between Chambers Bay and courses that have hosted the British Open. (USGA/Darren Carroll)
2011 U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy drew comparisons between Chambers Bay and courses that have hosted the British Open. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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Some of the world’s top players discussed first-time U.S. Open site Chambers Bay in their Tuesday news conferences.

PHIL MICKELSON, six-time U.S. Open runner-up:

It's really a wonderful golf course. It's playing and set up much like what we're used to at a British Open. And I think this year is going to be very similar to St. Andrews. I find them to be very similar golf courses, set up very similarly, as well. So I think the guys that play well this week should play well in another month at St. Andrews.

This golf course allows for the short game to save shots that may be less than perfect. It doesn't force you to play perfect golf. There's plenty of room to play and to recover from. And I feel like there are a number of holes that you can capitalize and make birdies on and shoot a good number. I feel that it has characteristics of playability similar to Augusta, characteristics of St. Andrews that allow you to play and allow you to play it less than perfect.

I like how [the USGA is] bringing major-championship golf to different parts of the country. But the critical part is having a golf course that can host it, that is a viable host. And I think Chambers Bay is every bit of that.

[Our architecture firm] was involved in the bidding process [to build Chambers Bay]. And I thought it was a spectacular piece of property. But it wouldn't have turned out anything like this, no. Not good or bad, I think it's a wonderful course. My vision was totally different.

TIGER WOODS, three-time U.S. Open champion:

It's certainly different for a U.S. Open, that's for sure. Some of the holes here, you can move up 100 yards. And the greens are getting firm, but it's more of the shape of the golf course. There's so many different ways that you can play it. I think one of the more dramatic things I've noticed is how differently it plays from morning to afternoon. It gets so much faster and drier. The morning times versus afternoon times, it's very different.

I'm starting to get the feel for this golf course and what I need to do off the tees and where [you can] miss it around the greens. Other links golf that we play, we don't have elevation changes like this. I'm curious to see how many guys hit sprinklers this week, because the sprinklers are literally sometimes 6 inches off the green. You're going to see some different things this week than you have probably seen in any other major championship that we play.

There are three or four different tee shots on almost every hole. So it's one of the harder major championships to prepare for. I'm happy that I'm playing in the afternoon the first day, to get a chance to watch what some of the guys do in the morning to get a feel for it.

Par is always a good number in major championships. We're going to have opportunities to be aggressive here. We're going to have opportunities to hit shots and go after certain holes, drive holes. We're going to have that opportunity. But also we're going to have the flip side, too, where it's going to play tough. And you're going to have to make some serious lag putts out there and get them close.

RORY McILROY, 2011 U.S. Open champion:

It's a pure links golf course. Every part of this golf course is fescue. You get fescue in the United States on the surrounding areas of the golf course, but here fairways, greens, aprons, everything is fescue. It's really like playing an Open Championship in the United States.

I really like the golf course. I think it sets up well for my game. You've got to be aggressive off the tee. You've got to hit driver. I think it's a course where you're going to see a lot of guys hit fairways and hit greens. But when you hit greens, you can still be 50, 60 feet away from the pin. So if you can drive the ball well and your pace putting and long putting is sharp, I think they're going to be two really key things this week to be successful.

If the first hole plays as a par 5, it's actually quite a gentle start to the round. But then if it plays as a par 4, it's quite a tough start. I think most likely they're going to move the tee up on 16 one or two days. So if you get 16 up and you get 18 as a par 5, then there's a couple of chances coming in that you could be able to make birdie. But if they play 18 as a par 4 and play 16 back, it's a really tough finish with 17 sandwiched in between them. I like that they're going to flip it each day so that it remains a par 9 for the two holes [Nos. 1 and 18]. It's not like we're going to have different pars for different rounds of golf. It's not going to be like a par 71 or a par 69 one day, it's going to be a par-70 every day, which is fair.

It's a very long golf course. Some of these greens, where I'm hitting maybe a 6- or a 7-iron in, a lot of the field are going to be going in with 5- and 4-irons. It's tough enough going in there with the clubs I'm going in with. Guys that hit the ball a long way – I think if you can carry the ball like 295, 300 in the air this week, you're going to have a big advantage.

[Chambers Bay] plays more like a links course than some links courses. I mean, it's so fast, so firm. It reminds me of 2013 at Muirfield at the Open. Was it '06 at Hoylake when Tiger won there? It reminds me of that. It's a pure links test this week.

This is the sort of golf course that if you're just slightly off, it'll magnify that. But it'll really reward people who are hitting good shots and are confident and their short games are sharp. I definitely think this is the sort of golf course that you could see the guys that are really playing well and are confident with the setup and how they approach it, they could really separate themselves from the rest of the field.

RICKIE FOWLER, runner-up in 2014 U.S. Open:

This is a little bit more like links golf, and it's fun for me. It's still the U.S. Open. It's typically the hardest test we have all year, and it demands a lot of your game. I’m looking forward to learning it even more and seeing what they have in store for us and what kind of different angles and tee boxes they will show us.

I know off the U.S. Amateur and some of the guys that have played here, they got to see a test run with that. But coming to a new course almost levels the playing field a bit. I really felt like it was a course where I had to go see it and kind of learn for myself. Visually I may see something differently than another player. I've had fun the past few days getting to hit some shots and see what the golf course has to offer and also figure out where you absolutely do not want to go.

I really feel comfortable on this golf course. I love playing links golf. I've played well in the British Open overseas. And being that I have played well in the U.S. Open, I feel like putting the two together with the links style and U.S. Open setup could turn out to be a great week.

You have to understand that there will be some bounces that may not go your way. So as much as it tests your game, it tests you mentally even more so. You have to be able to take the punches when they come, accept it and move forward. You can hit a great shot and the ball ends up in the wrong spot and if you take that the wrong way, you're behind the 8-ball and you're not really going to have a chance. You have to be able to move forward, accept it and move on.

MARTIN KAYMER, 2014 U.S. Open champion:

I said yesterday in a couple of interviews that I believe we're going to play three British Opens this year. We start here and then we play the real one at St. Andrews, and then Whistling Straits. The golf course here, I think, is very is similar around the greens to Pinehurst last year. I think chipping and pitching might be more difficult than putting. So I think you will see the putter a lot this week, not only from me, but from other players, too.

I think the guys from the UK might have a little bit of an advantage this week, because this is what they grew up on. Overall, I think it's a great golf course. I think completely different in the way you have to be very creative, very untypical for U.S. Opens. But I think for the European players, we welcome those courses.

I played 18 holes yesterday and obviously the first time it looks very complicated. But if you really focus on the main things, it's not that complicated. You need to know how much of the slopes you want to use. It's very difficult to control at the end of the day, but I think the key this week is definitely around the greens, hitting those long putts or the bump and runs, whatever you're going to do, hit them within 10, 12 feet and trying to make those putts.

GRAEME McDOWELL, 2010 U.S. Open champion:

The golf course has been a lot better than I expected. You've got to take it for what it is. Someone's going to lift the U.S. Open Trophy this week, and having the right attitude off the bat is key. The golf course is incredibly fast and fiery, as pure a links golf course as I think I've ever seen on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

I really, really like the golf course. It's got a few holes which have me scratching my head, but mostly I think it's a fantastic test. And you really have to control your ball, especially with your iron play coming into the greens. There's going to be a lot of long distance putting and scrambling. So it's going to be a great test. I think it's going to look fantastic on TV.

There's no doubt that this feels more like a British Open Championship than it does a U.S. Open. I haven't seen a golf course this fast and firm probably since Hoylake in '06, when we had a really hot summer. I guess for someone like me who grew up playing links golf, I guess I feel like I'm in the sort of upper parts of the field regarding guys who are familiar with this type of golf. So I feel like I have slight advantages there and being able to adapt my game, going back to my roots a little bit.

This golf course is unique in many ways. It's very hard to compare it to many of the Open Championship venues, perhaps a St. Andrews because of the undulations and the slopes and the way you can use the slopes to bring the ball back into the target areas and the greens. The architecture style of the golf course, I really, really like it. There are a few holes out there that have me kind of wondering what I'm going to do. And I'm just going to have to play those holes very conservatively and try and limit the damage. But he gives you a lot of opportunities to work the ball back and to make birdies.

The test is so unique and has so many more variations than a regular golf course. There's so many different ways you can play each of these holes. There's so many ways you can attack the greens with iron shots. And I think everyone is taking the preparation very seriously. Obviously, Mike Davis told us that this wouldn't be the type of golf course where we could just play it one and a half or a couple of times and expect to be able to compete here. Guys have taken it pretty seriously, and I think there's been a lot more homework done for this one than a lot of the major venues in the past.

I think the short game around here, there's so much imagination and creativity required in the short game. The average player this week can probably have putter in his hand up to 40 times around this golf course, because you're putting from long range a lot. Iron shots, if the normal proximity to the hole with an iron shot in a 18-hole PGA Tour event is 25 to 30 feet, I don't know, you probably have to ask the statisticians that one, you're going to have to add another 50, 60, 70 percent onto that proximity to hole this week. Because it’s very hard to get your iron shots close, you're going to have a lot of long-range putting, and there's going to be a lot of inherent scrambling. Even if playing well, you're going to have to really scramble well. It requires a huge amount of patience and a lot of discipline.