11 Feeling The Heat At The U.S. Open
June 14, 2015
The USGA executive director has felt extra pressure at every U.S. Open since becoming senior director of rules and competitions in 2005. But this year, he'll be under more scrutiny than ever with Chambers Bay's only previous time hosting a high-level tournament coming at the 2010 U.S. Amateur. If the course setup is deemed too difficult by players, it will be Davis, who has spoken often about the course's many options and warned players they need extra practice rounds, taking the brunt of the criticism.
Robert Trent Jones Jr.
Of course, Mike Davis didn't design Chambers Bay. That distinction belongs to Robert Trent Jones Jr., who got the job of creating the first golf course designed specifically to host a U.S. Open. His father and brother, Rees, have both been known as the "Open Doctor," but this week is big brother's big opportunity. Bobby, 75, has had an incredible career as a golf course architect that spans over 50 years, but he'll probably be remembered most -- favorably or unfavorably -- for this links layout.
The TV network is taking over coverage following a popular 20-year run by NBC. Greg Norman plays Johnny Miller's role. Joe Buck replaces Dan Hicks. And Mark Loomis tries to fill the shoes of NBC Producer Tommy Roy. Adding to the difficulty of this transition is the mostly unknown venue and Fox's inexperience in covering any golf, let alone a major championship. Their telecasts from Chambers Bay are as likely to get picked apart as Tiger Woods' golf swing. Speaking of which. . .
Some might argue Woods has little at stake and feels no expectations following his disastrous tune-up performance at the Memorial, but we know that's not the case even though it's been seven years(!) since Woods won a major. Historically, Woods has played well in West Coast majors and he's always professed a love of links golf. A good performance could go a long way, especially in getting him prepared for the British Open at St. Andrews.
Lefty turns 45 the Tuesday of the tournament. That means a win on Sunday would essentially tie him with Hale Irwin (1985) as the oldest U.S. Open champ ever. In other words, the man who has a record six runner-ups in this event is running out of opportunities to actually win it to complete the career Grand Slam. And at a wide-open course that requires plenty of imagination around the greens, Phil knows he might never have a better chance.
The 21-year-old Texan could do nothing until he's 25 and we'd still be very impressed, but he's got a unique -- albeit, improbable -- opportunity. Each year, the Masters champ is the only golfer with a chance to capture the calendar Grand Slam, something that's never been done. With as well as Spieth has been playing, there's no reason to think he can't win at Chambers Bay and create even more buzz before the British Open. Plus, he has a secret weapon helping him in Washington. . .
One of the reasons so many people are picking Spieth to win this week is his caddie. Greller knows Chambers Bay as well as anyone having carried bags there for years as a side gig to being a math teacher. He was also married to his wife, Ellie, at the course. That's all good news for Spieth, but it will also put Greller in the spotlight, a rarity for a caddie at a major championship.
While we're on the subject of celebrity caddies, Steve Williams will be back on Scott's bag. And the struggling Aussie needs all the help he can get. Scott's putting, despite switching back to a long putter, has been dreadful (he's ranked 187th on the PGA Tour). And a scary thought for Scott is this will be one of the three final majors before he has to stop anchoring. Can he take advantage?
McIlroy is the clear favorite, but should he not win at Chambers Bay and should another young star emerge victorious like Jordan Spieth at the Masters, he'll have to hear about another potential rivalry. Plus, after winning the WGC Match Play and the Wells Fargo, McIlroy's back-to-back missed cuts in Europe, have many challenging his dominance. Another rough performance at the U.S. Open will force him to deal with even more questions.
Now that she's been seen in public with her boyfriend, Rory McIlroy, things change. If McIlroy continues to play well, Stoll will be called "a good influence" on him. If he struggles, she'll be labeled "a distraction." It won't be fair either way, but like it or not, the PGA of America employee has pretty much become golf's First Lady.
What Fowler did at the Players was the stuff of legend. However, to be considered a true golfing great, he needs to win majors. All of those top fives in golf's biggest events last year were impressive, but now he is expected to start closing the deal. The good news is that he showed he can do it at TPC Sawgrass. The bad news is, people have short memories. Another close call at Chambers Bay -- or even worse, another missed cut like at the Memorial -- and he'll be reminded that despite all of his talent, he's stuck on two career PGA Tour titles and zero majors.