Date: June 17, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes @ US Open

Preview: Chambers made for Aussie tilt

For all the fanfare of Australia’s international golfing prowess, the US Open is not our happiest hunting ground.

Despite the trailblazing feats of Jim Ferrier, Joe Kirkwood and even their predecessors, Australian golfers have battled to establish little more than a fragile toehold on the US Open landscape.

Only David Graham in 1981 at Merion and Geoff Ogilvy in 2006 at Winged Foot have ultimately succeeded in what is regarded annually as the toughest test in professional golf.

But almost incongruously, potentially the sternest test the governing USGA has ever conjured stands to help Australia’s cause.

Chambers Bay has a slope rating of 145 and a course rating of 77.3 and was built with this week firmly in the mind of designer Robert Trent Jones Jr when it opened in 2007.

It features the top three and four of the five longest par-fours in championship history.

It has an elevation change of 60m, most of which is scaled several times.

It has greens so rough in patches that there is no discernible putting surface, with boundaries defined by white dots purposely painted for the occasion.

It has several greenside slopes that wouldn’t be out of place at a slides-based theme park.

It was sufficiently dry and hard a week before the tournament even begins that many players were questioning its fairness as a host for such an august trophy.

In short, it’s a beast.

But, working distinctly in the eight contending Australians’ favour is that it’s a new beast.

And for all its woolly, bouncy fury, the style Chambers Bay demands shifts the balance of power ever so slightly in their direction.

It’s the United States’ best crack yet at a championship links, although it’s far from the definitive version. Tick.

Its length and contours will put a premium on ball-striking more so than some previous hosts. Tick.

And while Presidents Cup 2011 at Royal Melbourne proved beyond all doubt that it’s folly to question Americans’ ability to adapt and read greens, the vision required around the short grass – or perhaps more accurately the more heavily rolled grass – is potentially another tick.

Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, John Senden, Marcus Fraser and Geoff Ogilvy have all had vast experience in links play in Europe, while youngster Cam Smith, Jason Day and Kurt Barnes are no novices either.

Barnes, at No.605, is the longest-ranked of the octet, but his view perhaps best represents the optimism among them.

“I like playing golf in America … and coming to a new course where not many (in the field) have played just gives you that extra bit of confidence,” Barnes said.

In fact, while plenty of the field – and locker-room banter is far stronger than the words that appear on the record – dislike the layout passionately, word from the Aussie contingent is distinctly positive.

“It’s good. It’s great from tee to about 20m short of the green, then it gets a bit severe, but it’s doable, for sure,” Leishman said.

“It will be interesting to see how quick they get the greens and if they can get them smooth.

“But it’s interesting and fair off the tee and you’ve got to shape your shots into the green to get to certain places, which is good.”

Senden, at 44 the veteran Aussie of the group, says “acceptance” is the vital component.

“Even with perfect weather forecast, you think you can score in the benign conditions,” the Queenslander says.

“But on this land, the way the ball bounces, you think you’ve hit a great shot and it could end in a spot where you are wondering how a ball could ever get there.

“You have to accept those situations – and that’s what golf is.

“It’s a game of acceptance and never more so than here.”

History and odds show Day deserves his post as our best hope. The world No.10 has three top-four finishes in his past four tries at the US Open, including twice being runner-up.

Scott, world No.1 this time last year, has endured a torrid run with his putter in recent months.

But with long-time looper Steve Williams back from retirement and the emphasis on ball-striking, the Queenslander has a spring back in his step, too.

The vagaries of Chambers Bay and its edgy conditioning make it difficult to accurately assess winning chances.

But it would not surprise to see a handful of the eight Aussies in the conversation come the weekend.


(All times AEST – Rd1 is Friday morning, Rd 2 is Saturday morning)

Player                       Rank              Rd1 (tee)                 Rd2 (tee)

Jason Day                 10                   7.17am (1)              1.17am (10)

Adam Scott             12                   1.17am (10)           7.17am (1)

Marc Leishman     53                   7.17am (10)           1.17am (1)

John Senden           60                   12.33am (10)        6.33am (10)

Geoff Ogilvy            104                6.33am (1)              12.33am (10)

Cameron Smith     167                12am (10)               6am (1)

Marcus Fraser       168                12am (1)                 6am (10)

Kurt Barnes                       605                12.22am (10)        6.22am (1)