On a sunny, warm day that everyone involved with the 2015 U.S. Open Championship hopes will be repeated many times over come June, USGA and Pierce County officials detailed course setup and fan experience programs during a wide-ranging press conference at Chambers Bay with nearly 200 members of the media.
The defending U.S. Open champion, Martin Kaymer, joined the festivities via satellite uplink from San Francisco, where he is competing in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship. Additionally, several of the Fox Sports personalities who will broadcast the U.S. Open from June 18-21 were on-site, along with seven members of the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks and golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr.
USGA President Tom O’Toole Jr. remarked on the enthusiasm and cooperation displayed across the region for what will be the first U.S. Open held in the Pacific Northwest.
“This community is truly incredible,” he said. “This is your time to welcome the world's greatest golfers and the thousands of spectators to see Chambers Bay. Please accept our heartfelt thanks.”
Chambers Bay is located within Chambers Creek Regional Park, an expansive recreational destination for residents and visitors that includes walking trails, sports fields, playgrounds and beach access along Puget Sound. Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy discussed the property’s history and the benefits that hosting the U.S. Open will provide to the community for years to come.
“Chambers Bay is a great story of reclamation and conservation,” she said, mentioning the site’s past as a sand and gravel mine. “Former county executive John Ladenburg, who is here today, had a fabulous idea: To build a world-class golf course that would be an economic driver for Pierce County. I am proud of the work that my team has done to make this idea a reality.”
The star of the day was the golf course itself, which is like no previous U.S. Open site. Mike Davis, the USGA’s executive director and the person in charge of course setup for the U.S. Open since 2006, revealed some of the elements of the layout that will change during the course of the championship to provide the players with the most complete test possible.
One of those alterations includes the likelihood of utilizing different teeing grounds that would swap the pars of the first and 18th holes on certain days, so that when one plays as a par 4, the other will play as a par 5. While the total par of the course would remain at 70, it would be the first time in the championship’s history that the par of a particular hole would change.
“The drive zones as a par 4 and par 5 for both of those holes are completely different,” said Davis. “The putting greens are very bold designs in both cases. We just felt at times that the holes were a better fit as a risk-reward par 5 and at other times as a long par 4.
“It all comes down to the architecture of the course, and the fact that it gives so much wonderful flexibility.”
Another hole that may present very different looks to the players is the par-3 ninth hole, which normally plays from an upper teeing ground that features nearly a 100-foot drop to the green. Davis suggested that on certain days an alternate teeing ground – set at a 90-degree angle from the primary teeing ground and playing uphill – will be used.
“We'll let the players know ahead of time that we do indeed plan to play both teeing grounds,” he said. “But there is that element of surprise that we think that’s important, and we're not going to show our cards on everything.”
Kaymer, who has not yet visited Chambers Bay, talked about what he has heard of the course and how he thinks it will suit his game.
“I think it looks like a links golf course with really good weather,” said Kaymer, a line that was met with laughs from those in the crowd who know how changeable the weather in the Pacific Northwest can be.
“I met with [course architect] Robert Trent Jones Jr. at the Masters and he gave me a few tips already,” said Kaymer. “Apparently you really have to know the falloffs around the greens. So I think it’s going to be similar to Pinehurst where around the greens you can maybe putt or do those bump and runs.”
Following the pattern established by the USGA over the last two years, the U.S. Open experience will not be limited to those with spectator tickets. A number of activities planned elsewhere in the Seattle-Tacoma region were outlined by Diana Murphy, USGA vice president and Championship Committee chairman.
In addition, a national U.S. Open Trophy Tour will launch from New York on April 29, with the trophy traveling across the country and eventually making its way to Seattle. Murphy also detailed enhancements to usopen.com as well as the championship’s official mobile app, which will allow fans around the world to stay connected to the championship through video and other content.
“The effort to provide a 360-degree fan and spectator experience amplifies the reason why we are here,” said Murphy, “to conduct the 115th U.S. Open Championship and to provide a comprehensive test to some of the most elite players in the world.”
With just seven weeks until championship week, the media event underscored that the 2015 U.S. Open is among the most anticipated sporting events in the Pacific Northwest’s history.