The Loop

Ready for match play at Chambers Bay

August 24, 2010

Handle with care. That is the overriding lesson the USGA's Mike Davis learned the last two days in regards to setting up Chambers Bay, the three-year-old links course hard by the Puget Sound that will host the 2015 U.S. Open.

Make no mistake, the 36-hole stroke-play qualifying at the 110th U.S. Amateur Championship was as much about Davis learning how the course will react versus some of the best golfers in the country as it was about whittling the 312-player field down to approximately 64 players. (Sixteen golfers will return early Wednesday to fight for the final six spots in the match-play bracket.)

Davis wanted Chambers Bay playing firm and fast to see how it would hold up (answer: just fine, thank you very much). Additionally he learned that the course can get too firm and too fast perhaps too quickly, as he suggested had become the case Monday afternoon with players making good shots yet failing for a while to be rewarded. It's a mental note he won't soon forget down the road.

For the record: the field shot a 79.247 average at Chambers Bay compared to 75.343 at The Home Course.

With the "dry run" portion of the championship essentially over, the fun actually might only now be beginning. You can make the argument Chambers Bay is a better match-play venue than stroke-play one, with all the nuances of the course and various approaches you can take to attacking it.

So what are some of the most intriguing matches for Round 1? Here are a few (times are PDT):

[__Jeff Wilson vs. TBD, 2:10 p.m.


]( opening with a 62 at The Home Course Monday, the 47-year-old from Fairfield, Calif., followed it up with a three-over 74 at Chambers Bay to secure medalist honors by a stroke over Patrick Cantlay and Patrick Rodgers. It's the fifth time Wilson has been a medalist at a USGA event (Amateur 2000; Mid-Amateur 2000, 2001 and 2004). The question now is whether he can finally carry that momentum into match play, where he has never got past the quarterfinals in a USGA event.


]( has showed his chops in match play this summer, reaching the semifinals at the North & South and winning the Western Amateur. He'll get all he can handle, however, from McCoy, a 47-year-old from Iowa who twice has reached the semifinals of the U.S. Mid-Amateur.

__Another tilt of experience against youth as the 51-year-old Jackson (low amateur at the last two U.S. Senior Opens) faces the reigning NCAA champion and the low amateur at this year's U.S. Open.

[__David Dannelly vs. Byeong-Hun An, 11 a.m.


]( is the first champion to defend his title since 2000. Interestingly, those that have come back have fared well. Jeff Quinney reached the quarterfinals in 2001, as did Matt Kuchar in 1998. And of course Tiger Woods won again in 1995 and 1996. Meanwhile, Dannelly, a senior at Clemson, is playing in his first USGA event.

[__Kevin Tway vs. Blayne Barber, 11:10 a.m.


]( players talented enough to match this worthy of the 36-hole final rather than a first-round contest. Both have had strong summers, with Tway winning the Players Amateur by seven strokes and Barber on the leader board at more than a half-dozen amateur events in 2010.

[__Cheng Tsung Pan vs. Peter Uihlein, 12:50 p.m.


]( might not have the high profile of Uihlein, but his resume is pretty stout. He reached the quarterfinals of the 2007 U.S. Amateur at age 15 and has twice been medalist at the Western Amateur. Like Uihlein, Pan's a Leadbetter Academy product who could give the Oklahoma State All-American a run for his money.