Chambers Bay poses challenge for U.S. Open golfers

Doug Ferguson, Associated Press

University Place, Wash. — Robert Streb walked off the third green at Chambers Bay, looked both directions and headed left down a dirt path toward Puget Sound.

Wrong way.

He walked back up the hill and stood in front of a large sign that showed a map of the course, arms crossed as he tried to figure out one of the many mysteries about this course.

In this case, it was a simple question — where was No. 4?

Streb wasn't alone.

"It was early on in the course, I think around the third or fourth hole," Paul Casey said Monday. "My caddie walked the course the day before and knew the way. But I saw many caddies who were lost searching for the fourth tee."

There are more pertinent questions about Chambers Bay, the newest course in 45 years to host a U.S. Open. Never has a U.S. Open course featured so much elevation.

One fairway is just over 100 yards wide. And it's so difficult to determine where the fairway ends and the green starts that USGA officials have marked each green with white dots about a yard apart to outline the putting surface.

Morgan Hoffmann, one of 11 players who competed at Chambers Bay in 2010 for the U.S. Amateur, described it with words that could take on any meaning.

Interesting. Different.

About the only one he left out was exciting.

"Oh, it will be exciting," Hoffmann said. "There's going to be shots you see on TV that they're going to replay and you're going to say, 'How did that happen?' Because you can't see anywhere near what the slopes are."

Monday was busier than usual for a U.S. Open as the courtship of Chambers Bay got started with the first official day of practice.

Tiger Woods was among those who took a scouting trip within the past two weeks. He was first out on the back nine and plans to go nine holes a day. Jordan Spieth played Chambers Bay for one round in the U.S. Amateur (he shot 83), played it again when his caddie got married and spent the weekend getting reacquainted.

The reviews are mixed.

Chambers Bay is not a links course. It just dresses up like one, especially with the fescue grass that gives the course a blend of brown and green, mixed with yellow wisps of fescue framing the rugged and expansive bunkers.

"There's plenty of danger out there," Casey said. "Visually, it's fairly generous off the tee with what ... You can have a lot of fear standing on the tee at links courses — Muirfield, Birkdale and the like.

"You know if you don't pipe, it you're going to be looking for a ball for a long time. Here, it's generous."

For the moment, Chambers Bay is new and different that it's more intriguing than aggravating. Then again, scores don't count until Thursday.

"I don't know exactly what the mission statement is to find a U.S. Open course and how to set it up," two-time Open champion Lee Janzen said. "But I would imagine that it would be to provide a challenging test so that the best players in the world are challenged, and hopefully bring out the best players for that week."