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Posts Tagged ‘Brandt Snedeker’

As a Northwest golfer, avid-to-rabid fan of professional golf and early buyer of 2015 U.S. Open tickets, I really wanted our national championship at Chambers Bay to succeed. It didn’t. In fact, it was an almost-epic failure.

For spectators – I was one for three days — the USGA would have had to try to make the experience worse. The walk in from the inland (east) entrances yielded spectacular, pride-inspiring views from the top ridge that I suspect are unparalleled in championship golf.

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Ridge

 

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After that – yikes.

The sand dune amphitheaters were supposed to make spectacular places to watch the action – but the USGA had almost all of them roped off. I get that call – safety first – but closing the dunes made them walls, and towering ones at that.

An enduring image of Chambers Bay -- nothing.

An enduring image of Chambers Bay — nothing.

I caught a glimpse of Henrik Stenson on the 12th tee.

I caught a glimpse of Henrik Stenson on the 12th tee.

Then there was the spectator routing. Getting close to a player while he was playing was only slightly easier than getting close to Obama. (I did, I proudly admit, almost back into Henrik Stenson on his way to the 12th tee on Saturday.) And it was impossible – and I mean literally impossible – to follow a group around: five of the holes were completely closed to spectators.

Path

Lots of walking, not much to see.

Although it was tough to see golfers actually PLAYING GOLF, I did get a nice photo of Miguel Angel Jimenez leaving a san-i-can.

Although it was tough to see golfers actually PLAYING GOLF, I did get a nice photo of Miguel Angel Jimenez leaving a san-i-can.

Morgan Hoffmann played in something akin to pajamas on Thursday, but because the fans were so far from the action, very few people could tell.

Morgan Hoffmann played in something akin to pajamas on Thursday, but because the fans were so far from the action, very few people could tell.

Concessions?  In a word: terrible. The stands were sporadic and the f&b was overpriced — I paid $5 for a Dove bar on top of my buddy Jeff’s $6 lemon water, which they marketed as “lemonade.” I paid $3 for some sort of packaged pb&j concoction which ought to be the subject of a federal ban. The lines? Well, Jeff and I stood in a lunch line for thirty minutes on Saturday – me, for an undercooked $6 hot dog and $7 Bud Light.  Contrast that with Augusta National, where the lines ran about fifteen seconds, the beers $4 and the pimento cheese sandwiches $1.50.

Not exactly a pimento cheese sandwich.

Not exactly a pimento cheese sandwich.

The USGA even screwed up the grandstands. On Saturday my buddy Warren and I found our way to the grandstand on the downhill par three 15th.   The players were too far back to see them on the tee without a great pair of binoculars. Fans with good eyes could see shots in the air, but the pin was so far back that we had to look over the side of the grandstand to see players putt out. No doubt there were better grandstands out there, but with the policy of allowing fans to come and go as they please, getting a seat in one was no easy task.  All this, mind you, on a course that was reportedly built specifically to host the U.S. Open.

As for the player experience – where to start? No one much cared for the aforementioned gallery-free holes – Phil Mickelson reportedly called them “eerie.”

The fan-free eighth hole.

The fan-free eighth hole.

And then there were the much-maligned putting surfaces, known on most courses as “greens.” I’ve thought from the day the USGA announced it was coming to University Place that they’d have to do something about the putting surfaces. Whatever they did didn’t work. Whether you thought they were more akin to broccoli (Stenson) or cauliflower (Rory McIlroy), it’s never a good thing when balls break, well, zigzag, as Darren Clarke’s birdie putt did on no. 12 on Friday. I’m not sure that they were the worst greens the PGA Tour has seen in recent years – Billy Horschel said they were while Brandt Snedeker said he’s played worse. (More.)  But when the discussion has the word “worst” in it — well, let’s just say the career prospects of Chambers’ greenskeeper aren’t much better than Monica Lewinsky’s.

The championship wasn’t a complete bust. Jordan Spieth’s Grand-Slam-maintaining victory meant the right guy won (Cameron Smith or Brendan Grace, not so much).  Eight guys finished under par — well more than average for a U.S. Open in recent years — and Spieth’s minus 5 winning score was certainly more palatable than, say, plus 5.  (Angel Cabrera and Geoff Ogilvy at 2007 Oakmont and 2006 Winged Foot, respectively.)  The cream rose to the top: the world’s second-best player won, and of the top eleven finishers, ten are ranked top 50 in the world. There were a few decent places to actually see some action — most notably left of the ninth tee and above no. 14:

9 tee

14 tee

The record-breaking merchandise was outstanding: I spent a bundle in the main swag tent, and the Lee Wybranski water color I picked up on Wednesday will be on my office wall by week’s end. The big picture setting showcased the Pacific Northwest’s stunning beauty.  Not all the greens were awful: the putting surfaces at 7 and 13 were reportedly fine if a bit fast.  The weather was chamber-of-commerce perfect.  The marshals didn’t enforce the “no photos” rule, which enabled me to take the photos above as well as some decent selfies and groupies.

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Todd, Adam, Tim Smith and me -- the Wednesday foursome.

Todd, Adam, Tim Smith and me — the Wednesday foursome.

Jeff Benezra and me on Friday.

Jeff Benezra and me on Friday.

Warren Gouk and me on Sunday.  (Not shown: Baron Kofoed and Chris White.)

Warren Gouk and me on Sunday. (Not shown: Baron Kofoed and Chris White.)

And the drama of Sunday’s remarkable finish will be tough for the golf-is-boring crowd to rebut. Already Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte is reporting that it’s not a question of if but when the U.S. Open will return – not, I’m sure, before the course gets a serious overhaul.

Still, it was fitting that the 2015 U.S. Open was decided by a putting surface debacle. Dustin Johnson had a twelve footer on the 72nd hole to go down in history. He missed it, and when he gaffed the three-foot comebacker he became a tragic figure in this week’s U.S. Open.

He wasn’t the only one.

 

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