The Local Knowlege

U.S. Open

USGA's Davis stands by his Chambers Bay warning to players, but says reaction is "overblown"

FAR HILLS, N.J. -- Mike Davis would never request a mulligan, for either a misdirected golf shot or a perceived misstatement, so it should be no surprise that the USGA executive director wasn’t about to retract a pointed observation he made last month about the upcoming U.S. Open at Chambers Bay that drew the ire of several would-be competitors.
“I was simply trying to be helpful by pointing out that preparation for this year’s U.S. Open might be more critical than any in recent memory given the uniqueness of the golf course,” Davis said Wednesday at Golf House, the USGA’s headquarters. “I think things have gotten a little overblown, but the point is still valid.”

Davis caused a stir during media day at Chambers Bay, in University Place, Wash., when he predicted that intense advanced preparation was all but mandatory to have a chance to win the 115th U.S. Open. “I would contend that there is no way, no way, a player would have success here at Chambers Bay unless he really studies the golf course and learns it,” Davis said April 27. “The idea of coming in and playing two practice rounds and having your caddie just walk it and using your yardage book, that person's done. Will not win the U.S. Open.”
Among those with sharp retorts was 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, who snarked, “We’ll play for second.”
“My point was this is really a unique golf course that was going to require a lot of study,” Davis said. “[There’s] more elevation changes than a normal U.S. Open course. It’s wider. It’s all fescue. They had never seen it before. There’s a lot of local knowledge needed.
“This is going to be my 26th U.S. Open, and I’ve noticed that players just don’t play as much golf there [at the Open site]. They’ll play nine holes a day, rely on their caddies instead of coming in early to play three or four rounds the week before like they did in the past … it’s just the way things have become. And what I wanted to communicate is that the advantage really goes to the player who knows the course inside and out. There is so much bounciness to that course that you just can’t learn it quickly. You certainly can’t learn it well from a yardage book. It is not a straightforward test, like, say Oakmont next year, which many of them have already seen.”
As Davis was talking, the embodiment of a well-prepared U.S. Open player was within earshot. The USGA officially opened the Jack Nicklaus Room Wedndesday at the USGA Museum. Nicklaus won four U.S. Open titles, starting in 1962 when he beat local hero Arnold Palmer in a playoff at Oakmont CC, near Pittsburgh. Nicklaus captured the first of his 18 major titles after an extensive visit to Oakmont the week before the championship, and throughout his career he made it a habit, whenever possible, to visit a major venue early to learn the layout and acclimate himself to the challenge.
“I think Jack knew which players would be the toughest to beat based on preparation, and he also knew which ones he could eliminate,” Davis said.
“A little bit of this is just things tend to get, I think, lost in translation, and I should probably be used to it,” Davis added. “Look at last year, when there was talk that back-to-back Opens at Pinehurst was going to be a disaster. ‘Why are the women playing second? Are the greens going to be unplayable?’ Two years ago at Merion it wasn’t going to work; they were going to demolish that golf course. The year before that was Olympic, and players weren’t going to like that style of architecture because of the doglegs and the fairway slopes cantering the other way.
“In the end, the best thing is to just let the golf course speak for itself.”


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U.S. Open

Video: Who are these guys trying to qualify for the U.S. Open?

Other than the fact that A) they all have at least a 1.4 handicap index and B) you've probably never heard of any of them, the participants in a typical U.S. Open local qualifier represent a wide range of backgrounds. At a recent one at Woodway C.C. in Darien, Conn., we met, among others, a high school senior, a 52-year-old real-estate developer, a decorated club pro, a recent college grad and a 27-year-old aspiring pro from Zambia.

This is the ground floor for those who aspire to make it to Chambers Bay in June and don't have the luxury of an exemption into the 36-hole section qualifier -- or in the case of a fortunate few, the Open itself. There will end up being 111 local qualifiers contested across the country by the time the last one is played on Thursday, and they all feature their share of journeymen and upstarts -- from those who feel they belong among the world's best to those merely looking to crash the party for a couple of days.

Here's a look at some of their stories:

Although all the players we spoke to came into the qualifier with similar ambitions, the results among them were decidedly mixed. Only Blake Morris, the 23-year-old recent graduate of Ole Miss, was among the six players who advanced into sectional qualifying by virtue of a one-under-par 70 at Woodway. Rob Labritz, the director of Golf at GlenArbor G.C. in Bedford Hills, N.Y., still has an outside shot as well. He shot two-over 73 and was awarded the second alternate spot in a playoff.

The full results can be seen here. 

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Golf & Business

Artist sets the scene at Chambers Bay in new U.S. Open poster

Washington's Chambers Bay is a first-time major-championship venue and the first course in the Pacific Northwest to host the U.S. Open. The historic moment gave Lee Wybranski what he describes as a "clean canvas" while working on the official commemorative poster for the 2015 championship.


The Flagstaff, Ariz.-based artist visited Chambers Bay last May and was taken by the sandy turf, water view and train tracks that run past the course. "I love diagonal compositions because they provide a great deal of depth and drama and really pull your eyes in," says Wybranski, who has painted the official Open poster since 2008.

Wybranski admits to taking some artistic license with his portrait of the 16th hole, bringing in the Olympic Mountains and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, while incorporating Chambers Bay's lone tree.

"My intention is always to find an original view of the course that hasn't been done before, but also is recognizable," he says.

The poster is $32 and is available online at

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Golf & Business

We've got upwards of 1 million reasons somebody might want to slap their logo on Martin Kaymer's golf bag

By Mike Stachura

Players often finish majors upset about missed opportunities, but rarely is it the winner -- or more specifically, his sponsors -- doing the missing. From a marketing perspective, that's what happened with Martin Kaymer.

loop-kaymer-logoless-bag-518.jpgDespite having deals with TaylorMade, Hugo Boss, SAP and Rolex, Kaymer is the first U.S. Open champ in decades to carry a bag free of sponsors' logos (the sunflower was a tribute to his late mother, Rina, who died of cancer in 2008). Had one been on the bag, it could have paid off handsomely. Eric Wright, president/executive director of research at Joyce Julius & Associates, which studies sponsorship value, estimates Kaymer's in-broadcast exposure during the final round alone was worth "in the range of $600,000 to $1 million."

Without a bag sponsor all year, Kaymer might not remain that way for long. His agent, Johan Elliot of Sportyard, predicts a sponsor could sign on "in-the-not-so-distant future."

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Gear & Equipment

Think being fitted for your putter isn't a big deal? Ask Michelle Wie how it worked out

By E. Michael Johnson

Although Michelle Wie is one of the best ball-strikers on the LPGA Tour, a case could be made that she won the U.S. Women's Open on the greens. The tabletop putting stroke Wie employs might be hard to look at, but it allowed her to go all 72 holes at Pinehurst No. 2 without a three-putt -- no small accomplishment on Donald Ross' turtleback greens.

Photo: Michael Cohen/Getty Images

Wie might also want to hand an assist to coach David Leadbetter. Three weeks ago Leadbetter suggested that his pupil flatten the lie angle on her Nike Method 006 putter to get her hands in a better position. Joking that "it usually takes about a month for me to listen to him," Wie had the adjustment made just prior to the Open.

"I flattened the lie angle 4.5 degrees," Wie said. "The Nike guys were here this week, and since I had a backup with me, it was a good time to make the change. I really wasn't planning to put it in play, but it felt so good I put it in the bag."

Related: Wie defies critics, wins Open her way

Getting the proper lie angle on one's putter might be one of the most underutilized routes to better golf. For starters, few players actually get fit for their putters, opting instead to simply grab one from the putter corral, stroke a few putts and then, like a smitten teen on a first date, fall in love immediately. Tour pros, however, realize its importance to success on the greens.

Often a lie-angle change is needed when the stroke changes. When Chris DiMarco first went to a claw-style putting stroke in 1995, he had little trouble adapting his putter to his stroke. As the years went on, however, DiMarco found the toe of his putter rising off the ground. "I just wanted to get where my left hand was comfortable on the club," he said. "I wanted it so the toe of the putter wasn't off the ground and the heel wasn't off the ground." The final solution: The same Ping Anser F putter he had been using, but with the club bent four degrees upright.

DiMarco's solution wouldn't surprise putting guru Dave Pelz. A proponent of making sure players have the correct lie angle on their putters, Pelz theorizes that many golfers set up too far from the ball, the main culprit being a putter with too flat a lie angle. In fact, according to Pelz, it is four times more likely to find a player with a lie angle that is too flat than too upright.

"A lie angle that is too flat will cause a player to reach for the ball and his hands will move out from under the shoulders," Pelz told Golf World in 2010. "That leaves the putter swinging around the body instead of along the proper path. It also places the eyes inside the target line, which can result in the player aiming right of the target." Left unsaid was that a too-upright putter leaves the eyes outside the line, with a tendency to aim left of the target.

Related: My Shot: Michelle Wie

Pelz's comments came shortly after working with Phil Mickelson and changing the lie angle on Lefty's Odyssey putter, making it one degree flatter. Keeping the face angle on path was the main reason for Mickelson's change. "Face angle means a lot more than stroke, and my face angle wasn't lined up," said Mickelson. "It was lined up at address, but it wasn't staying square throughout the putt, and it was noticeable when I started working with Pelz. . . . I spent two weeks working on it and trying to get it dialed in."

What are the telltale signs that your lie angle may be off? A good rule of thumb is that if you're in a comfortable setup position, but find the heel or toe of the putter dragging on the green before impact, then you may need to adjust the lie angle.

Of course, a player doesn't always have to adjust the lie angle to get the effect of doing so. Anytime a player changes the length of his putter, he is effectively altering lie angle as well. It is one of the reasons why some tour pros will change putter lengths after making an alteration to their stroke.

And any adjustment that helps make more putts is one worth considering.


brendan-steele-equipment-0630.jpgBRENDAN STEELE // Anchor's away

After shooting 74 during the first 18 holes in sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, Brendan Steele had had enough of the anchored stroke. Particularly struggling with his distances on lag putts, Steele -- who won the 2011 Valero Texas Open while anchoring -- switched to a conventional-length putter and a non-anchored stroke for the afternoon round. Steele didn't qualify for Pinehurst, but the second 18 served a purpose. "I made the change because I had nothing to lose," he said. "It was a good time to do it."

Steele putted well enough that he continued with it at the Travelers Championship, where he finished T-5 while ranking 13th in strokes gained/putting, including an opening-round 62. Steele used a Scotty Cameron by Titleist Futura X and employed Boccieri Golf's Secret Grip, which provides a counterbalancing effect. The grip Steele used was the midsize model, weighing 155 grams. The result? "Speed control is a lot better," said Steele.


nike-rzn-black-golf-ball.jpgNike RZN Black
PRICE: $46/doz.

The company's RZN line features a core with a waffle-pattern to better interlock with the mantle layer. The Black version spins less than the Platinum. Michelle Wie used the Black model at the U.S. Women's Open.


For former U.S. Amateur champion Ryan Moore, finding the right driver has been problematic. One of the reasons is Moore fights a high spin rate. At the Travelers Championship, Moore changed to a TaylorMade SLDR 430 with 10.5 degrees loft, but used the adjustable hosel to bring the loft down to 9 degrees. The move appeared to work. Moore finished T-5 while averaging 292.9 yards off the tee and hitting 80.4 percent of his fairways, ranking T-4 for the week. . . . Lexi Thompson took out her 18-degree Cobra Baffler T-Rail 2-hybrid and added a Cobra S2 Forged 3-iron at the U.S. Women's Open. Thompson added the club to give her another option off the tee at Pinehurst No. 2.

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News & Tours

So back-to-back Opens can work. Now when and where should the USGA do it next?

By Geoff Shackelford

Back-to-back redux? Game. Set. Match. After Pinehurst set the successful standard, now it's just a matter of when and where double U.S. Opens are played again.

Forget that the USGA got the two best players in their respective genders as winners, or that Pinehurst exceeded all hopes as a two-week host. This was a winner because the USGA regimes of past and present thought through all of the scenarios and executed things to perfection, right down to how they made sure those massive grandstands on 18 got just a little smaller so that Michelle Wie holed her final putt in front of a full house.

As spectacular as Pinehurst was in hosting these two weeks by putting forward a golf course that showed few signs of wear-and-tear for the ladies, the next venue for back-to-backs should not be in the Sandhills of North Carolina. And that's not a knock on the resort, but instead a statement about Mother Nature.

After years of asking USGA folks the common-sense question as to why the women went second in the back-to-back setup, I finally started getting answers in the last week or so. The women went second only because of possible weather issues. Not agronomy. Not sexism. Not television.

No, it was all about a possible weather delay sending the women to a Monday finish and intruding on the USGA's most important championship -- and biggest revenue source -- the United States Open.

The only beef with Pinehurst was the locale. While the Sandhills are wonderful and the heart of America's golfing core last century and this, inhabited by all sorts of nice folks with great spots to dine, two straight weeks was a lot on the people of Southern Pines and the Village of Pinehurst. It's not that they can't do it again, but if the USGA is to replicate this in the future, a larger region with more options for lodging and off-course activities needs to be part of the decision-making process.

loop-torrey-pines-350.jpgAdd up all of these elements and there is one no-brainer for another back-to-back: Torrey Pines. 

The men are slated to go there for the 2021 U.S. Open. Adding a U.S. Women's Open to the week before that men's event should be a USGA priority. Here's why:

* Weather. No need to worry about the women spilling into Monday. It does not rain in Southern California in June. Period. And the morning fog isn't thick enough to delay play into Monday either, though the USGA will undoubtedly remember that near disaster in 2008 when soupy fog nearly caused a delay to what ended up as one of the greatest finishes in U.S. Open history. 

* San Diego. America's finest city (so they claim) has no shortage of hotels, options for dining, options for other fun stuff to do for people setting up shop for two weeks. Flights in and out are plentiful, and the population size can support two U.S. Opens. It's also a tremendous sports town that will support two weeks of golf and, with a West Coast time zone, will deliver better television ratings.

* The course (or courses). The South Course's bowling alley fairways are not great but they are super for moving tees around and spreading out divots. The setting is second to none. A dream scenario would have the men play the South Course and the women the North, but reality says the North's first four holes are needed for corporate hospitality and media. However, if the USGA wants to get creative, they could perhaps have the women play a composite course of Torrey Pines North and South, then have the men play the entirely on the South. This would provide just enough diversity in setups, while not impacting the bottom-line issues that appeal to the USGA and television in hosting back-to-back Opens.

Pencil it in. Because as the last two weeks proved, back-to-back U.S. Opens can be tremendous for the game. And next time, let's have the men show up on Sunday before to watch the women finish. It'll be grand.

Photo: Stephen Szurlej

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Gear & Equipment

Why did Michelle Wie fool with her putter before playing Pinehurst? We'll let her explain

By E. MIchael Johnson


Michelle Wie won the U.S. Women's Open with a bag full of Nike golf equipment. I caught up with the first-time major winner by phone shortly after her victory to talk about the clubs and balls she used, including a putter that underwent a significant alteration -- and allowed her to go all 72 holes at Pinehurst No. 2 without a three-putt.

I understand you made an adjustment to your putter this week. What was it?  
I did. I flattened the lie angle 4.5 degrees on my Nike Method 006. David Leadbetter suggested the change about three weeks ago, but it usually takes about a month for me to listen to him. The Nike guys were here this week, and since I had a backup with me it was a good time to make the change. I really wasn't planning to put it in play, but it felt so good I put it in the bag.

You've used blade irons for most of your career but now have a split set. Why?  
I have played blades for the most part. My grandmother gave me a set of blade irons when I was very young, and those old clubs, especially the 3-iron, looked like butter knives. But it made sense to go to the split set. I still have the VR Pro Blades for the 7-iron through PW, and those are great for the shots that I'm really trying to dial in. But I thought why not take advantage of the technology available to me so I have the Pro Combo irons for the 5- and 6-irons. It's really helped me with those longer irons.

Why did you add the VR X3X Toe Sweep wedges?  
Those are my absolute favorites. I started with just the 60-degree and fell in love with it immediately. It's just so good from everywhere -- sand, rough, into the grain. The toe sweep [a wider sole out on the toe area and narrower in the heel] really makes it easy to play a variety of shots, and I've added the 56-degree as well.

What do you like about the RZN Black ball?  
Rock Ishii [Nike's director, golf ball R&D] first showed me the ball when we were in Oregon last year [for the Safeway Classic], and I told him I needed to play with it that week, even though it wasn't even out yet. It really was that apparent it was a good ball for me. It's a great ball in the wind, especially, and it helped me a lot when I won in Hawaii.

You only hit driver once on the final nine, but that was a bomb on No. 10. What appeals to you about the VRS Covert 2.0 driver?  
I actually like that you can change the loft and lie angle with it. And I like that it doesn't spin as much as some other drivers. That's very helpful to me. The face is just really, really, fast and that's what you want in a driver.

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Gear & Equipment

Winner's Bag: What Michelle Wie used to win the U.S. Women's Open

By E. Michael Johnson

loop-michelle-wie-putter-290.jpgAlthough not thought of as a great putter, Michelle Wie managed to play 72 holes at the U.S. Women's Open without a three-putt on the devilish Pinehurst No. 2 turtleback greens. One of the reasons: A lie angle adjustment Wie had made to her Nike Method 006 putter just prior to the Open.

Wie had the lie angle flattened slightly, and the move paid off as she made numerous clutch putts, including the five-footer for double bogey at the 16th on Sunday to cling to a one-shot lead as well as the 25-foot birdie putt on the penultimate hole that essentially clinched her victory.

Here's a look at the rest of the bag for the now first-time major winner:

Ball: Nike RZN Black

Driver: Nike VRS Covert 2.0 (UST Axivcore Red 69X), 9.5 degrees

3-wood: Nike VRS Covert Tour, 13 degrees

Hybrids: Nike VRS Covert (18, 24 degrees)

Irons (5-6): Nike VR Pro Combo; (7-PW): Nike VR Pro Blade

Wedges: Nike VR Pro (52 degrees); Nike VR X3X Toe Sweep (56, 60 degrees)

Putter: Nike Method 006

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News & Tours

What Michelle Wie's peers are saying about her Women's Open triumph

By Keely Levins

PINEHURST, N.C. -- As Michelle Wie was finishing off her U.S. Women's Open victory at Pinehurst No. 2, we asked some of her peers what it would mean if Wie fulfilled the expectations placed on her as a teen prodigy and won a major title, both for herself and for the LPGA Tour. 

Stacy Lewis: "That's a long journey for a kid. It's a lot for a kid to go through. She's been through the ups and the downs, and going to college I think was the best thing she ever did. She kind of became her own independent person. That's what you're seeing out there. You're seeing her personality, she's having fun, she's taken ownership of her game. So being her friend and watching her over the last few years, it's a great thing to see.”

Lexi Thompson: "I think that [Michelle winning] would mean a lot of things for women's golf. I think it will grow women's golf a lot. Michelle is playing so great right now. It was a matter of time before she got her first major."

Juli Inkster: "She's worked really hard. She took a lot of bashing early on and she just persevered, and I would love to see her win."

Stephanie Meadow: "Obviously, it's great. It's great to see her playing well. I think she draws a lot of people to the sport. So the more people we can get out here the better." 

wie wins open.jpg

Meg Mallon, who as captain picked Wie for the 2013 U.S. Solheim Cup: "I have to say that I'm just happy for Michelle! She is a special player and she's stayed focused on her goals that got her here today. She is happy and settled in her life and therefore ready for success. The tour is in a good place, and she will be able to shine a bigger light on all the other great players out there." 


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News & Tours

The difficulty is what makes the U.S. Women's Open special

By Keely Levins

loop-pettersen-528.jpgPINEHURST, N.C. -- Looking at the scoreboard as the final round of the U.S. Women's Open is underway, Michelle Wie is the only player under par. At the completion of the men's Open, just three players were under par. Given impressive amount of talent that has played/is playing Pinehurst No. 2 the last two weeks, it's pretty incredible. So what is it that makes the U.S. Open so hard?

Suzann Pettersen, former No. 2 player in the world who ended up missing the cut, was speaking early in the week about how important patience is during a U.S. Open.

"Patience, I guess, is a big key this week," she said. "It should be every week, but even so this week. Because the USGA, they want to really get in your head, they move the tees around, they will have you think, which I love. I've always been a big fan of the U.S. Opens. As much as you might hate it as it kind of goes down, you look back and you think that it actually made you a better golfer."

You have to give the USGA officials who setup the Open and make it the test it is some credit. While doing so, they achieve the impressive dichotomy of making a course play brutal yet make being beat up by it feel like a reward.

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