Pre-major tournament hype often revolves around the usual suspects – Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson. But the talk surrounding this week's 115th US Open at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, WA, surrounds a name you might not recognize – Mike Davis.
Don't feel bad if you are unfamiliar with the name. Davis is not a competitor on the PGA Tour but the executive director of the USGA who is in charge of setting up the courses for US Opens. His knack for putting together difficult layouts is drawing criticism from those who have to play it, especially those who have never played the newcomer course.
In fact, Chambers Bay is the first course in the Pacific Northwest to host a US Open and it has qualifiers on edge about what to expect. Top contenders are even more concerned about Davis' plans for the course, and several have spoken their minds in the build-up to the US Open. They expect a challenging course but are worried what Davis has up his sleeve, especially in light of the warning he issued golfers.
“The idea of coming in and playing two practice rounds and having your caddie just walk it and using your yardage book, that person is done, Will not win the U.S. Open,” Davis said. “… We've seen a trend where golfers play nine holes a day and do it for two days. In the old days, they'd come in and play three or four rounds. And they're not doing that anymore for different reasons.”
The reaction from the pros has been swift and harsh. If what Davis said is true then McIlroy, the No. 1 player in the World Golf Rankings, has no chance of winning this week.
“What's Mike Davis' handicap?” quipped McIlroy, who won the U.S. Open in 2011 at Congressional. “With the way the tour is (these days), no one is going to go out there and play 10 practice rounds.”
Webb Simpson, who won the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club, said with more than a touch of sarcasm: “We'll play for second.”
Ian Poulter of England hadn't yet played Chambers Bay, but he tweeted: “The reports back (from pros who had) are it's a complete farce. I guess someone has to win.”
Woods said the course could be brutal, “depending on how it's set up,” and Mickelson said it was more like a links venue for the Open Championship rather than a U.S. Open.
Davis has talked about giving the players tee shots from uneven lies on the sloping landscape at Chambers Bay, and he said the first and 18th holes could play both as par 4s or par 5s during the tournament, something unheard of in major championship golf. The USGA always has been very protective of par, so often the winner of the U.S. Open is the last man standing, the lone survivor. Whoever that is this week will have a lot to do with Davis.
HAMMER’S TIME: Cole Hammer, a 15-year-old high school junior, will become the fourth-youngest player in the history if the U.S. Open when he tees it up this week. The rising sophomore at The Kinkaid School in Houston shot 64-68–132 in sectional qualifying.
“This means the world to me,” said Hammer, whose 64 was two strokes off the course record held by Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan. “I've dreamed about it my whole life. It's going to be awesome.”
China's Andy Zhang became the youngest participant in U.S. Open history when he played in the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco at age 14.
LAST YEAR: Martin Kaymer of Germany claimed his second major title with a dominating performance, winning by eight strokes over Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient, at Pinehurst No. 2.
Kaymer led virtually from wire to wire and set the U.S. Open 36-hole scoring record with a score of 65-65–130. Kaymer, who joined two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer as the only Germans with multiple major titles, never let any of his pursuers get closer than four strokes over the last 48 holes while finishing with scores of 72-69.