UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash.--Can we get those fire hoses over to Chambers Bay?
As a warehouse blaze sent black smoke ominously above 2015's U.S. Open venue, the already-parched course turned nasty. Another pre-dawn irrigation overload will keep the turf on life support, but barring a miracle Sunday, Chambers Bay seems headed for a repeat of Saturday's third round brutality.
In Rory McIlroy's view, the course is close to the edge.
"I played last Sunday and I felt like they brought it a little too much towards the brink then," he said after an even par 70. "And it's always a struggle from then to sort of rein it back a little bit."
Bright skies starting at sunrise just after 5 a.m. added to the already fully-baked look that has shocked longtime U.S. Open fans yearning for the old days of lush, rough-lined fairways. With more sun, high-70s temperatures forecasted and a healthy dose of U.S. Open pressure, count on Sunday to produce a repeat of the third round's 73.133 scoring average.
The beleaguered greens?
"It was tough to make putts out there today, for sure," said J.B. Holmes after a third round 71 left him four back of leader Jordan Spieth. "They got really firm and really fast. And a couple of pins, one on 11 I hit two good shots in there and have a putt that's really difficult to even to two-putt."
Saturday's 7,637-yard setup continued the trend of pushing an emphasis toward distance, with several noted long hitters moving up the board. And the longest bombers may be at an advantage on the 18th Sunday, where the USGA is expected to move tees up and play the hole as a par 4 where only a select few can carry the fairway bunkering.
"It's definitely playing long here," said Holmes. "But you've got to hit it in the fairway, too, and you've got to make some putts. So it's not just about that. I hit my driver really well this week. It's definitely a big advantage any week when I can do that, but especially this week with this many long par 4s."