Architecture Buff Ogilvy Impresses

Geoff Ogilvy has embraced the character and challenge of Chambers Bay, and finds himself in the hunt at the 2015 U.S. Open. (USGA/Darren Carroll)
Geoff Ogilvy has embraced the character and challenge of Chambers Bay, and finds himself in the hunt at the 2015 U.S. Open. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Geoff Ogilvy, one of pro golf’s most ardent students of course architecture, warmed up for the 115th U.S. Open at Chambers Bay by playing for five days at another famous West Coast destination, Bandon Dunes.

It wasn’t for any reason other than to take in some relaxing rounds on those famous seaside links courses before heading to the National Open. There was a benefit to the trip, however, that helped him in the first two rounds of this championship, which he won in 2006.

“It’s the same green surfaces, fine fescue with bits of poa [annua] snaking in. And hitting off this stuff, it’s got that hard kind of thumpy, hollow-y feel that you don’t get anyplace else except along the coast on sand and fescue,” said Ogilvy, who didn’t arrive at the young course on Puget Sound until Monday. “Yeah, I’m sure it helped a little bit.”

The native of Australia managed to avoid getting thumped at Chambers Bay, shooting 69-72 to make the cut comfortably at 1-over 141.

“I’ve played nicely,” he said with a grin.

A partial reason for that is his genuine affinity for the layout architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. fashioned with his design firm.

“Architecturally I think it’s really good,” Ogilvy said. “I’m not a big fan of massive elevation change, and I think it could have been avoided a couple of times, but obviously, they want the ‘wow’ factor of the view. Like the ninth hole [a par 3]. That’s why you build that tee up there is for the ‘wow factor.’ It’s architecturally very sound, which I wasn’t expecting actually. I really like it.”

While some players have given high marks for the layout and setup, there have been some complaints about the fescue greens, which have tended to roll inconsistently, some say. Ogilvy didn’t convert many putts on Friday, but he finished with two birdies to brighten his disposition.

“They do wobble a little bit. The speed is unpredictable. It’s tricky because the speeds vary,” Ogilvy said of the putting surfaces. “But it’s a nice ball-striking course to hit shots on. It’s a fun course. It is a little frustrating to putt on, but you just have to adjust. You can still score.”

There was, indeed, decent scoring in the first round, with the field averaging a respectable 72.72. Day 2 also saw a number of red numbers, after 25 on Thursday. A target score is hard to predict, said the eight-time PGA Tour winner.

“It could be over par or it could be 15 under, if they wanted to be nice to us,” he said. “I think it will spread the field a little bit. You might get someone like Martin [Kaymer, the 2014 champion at Pinehurst] going 7-8 under par last year, but third might be even par. It’s that kind of golf course. And that’s what a good golf course is supposed to do.”

Would Ogilvy change anything? Perhaps a few landing areas, he said. But he reiterated that he largely gives Chambers Bay high marks. “I think it’s really good. It’s really, really hard for the average guy because it’s very grand and very big, but for us I think it plays really well.”

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.