Four score golfers (listen closely and you’ll hear the weak pun) are about to embark on a journey into the unknown. The competition started at 9,882 aspiring qualifiers from around the country. This egalitarian entre to golf summons to mind “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” and the saga of Frances Ouimet in the 1913 U.S. Open.
The 115th U.S. Open is scheduled to tee off Thursday on a new course – 8 years old – that is making its debut as an Open championship venue. That means, other than Jordan Spieth, no other recognized competitor has played for a cup on Chambers Bay.
But that’s okay. Fox and its cable offshoot Fox Sports are relatively new to broadcasting golf, too. For Thursday's opening-day coverage from this untested West Coast venue, TV coverage will be provided by Fox Sports from noon to 8 p.m. ET, and switching over to the regular Fox broadcast network from 8-11. The coverage plans have Joe Buck and Greg Norman prepared to guide viewers through a maze of drone camera shots, player-caddie utterances picked up by long-range microphones, and 3-D technology to enhance the roller-coaster appearance of Chambers Bay fairways.
That’s it precisely. If casual golf fans tune in to watch the Masters just to see the emerald fairways and the explosion of color painted by the azaleas, then decidedly untelegenic Chambers Bay surely will disappoint. Robert Trent Jones Jr., will take offense – and truly none is intended – but the 7,900 yards that stretch from the first tee to the 18th green do not summon the description beauty.
The course, with its sprawl of bunkers everywhere, still has much of the undulation and scorched appearance of the gravel pit that it was before Jones worked his magic. Golf magazine reports that about 90 percent of the stone that was mined is now the Seattle skyline. And that scraping required Jones to haul in about 1.5 million cubic yards of dirt to make Chambers Bay look for the most part like a links course.
So it’s Great Britain, Ireland and Scotland hard by Puget Sound, and rearing to embarrass the best golfers on the planet. Remember the gravel pit? Chambers Bay is a solid track. The groundskeeper even acknowledged to a Golf Channel analyst that he used a stimpmeter to measure the speed of the fairways. That tool usually measures only the speed of the golf ball across a putting green. Expect to see some long putts from far off the green, as in the manner of Royal St. Andrews.
The dramatic elevation changes on the fairways and on the greens really do create a bit of a roller-coaster-meets-mixing-bowl effect. With par 4s tickling the 500-yard mark, and a par 5 that exceeds 600 yards, viewers will be treated to some circus shots.
Chambers Bay is fescue grass from tee to green. If you’re watching the U.S. Open with your children, you might want to consider turning the volume down, because that fescue rough will lead to some coarse language on the course. In fact, even money says the greater Seattle-Tacoma area will absorb more f-bombs this week than at the end of the Super Bowl, when Coach Pete Carroll called a pass play inside the New England 5-yard line.
Bet also good money on this: There’s only one tree – a Douglas fir behind the 15th green – on Chambers Bay, and someone will hit it.
The U.S. Open, though, is can’t-miss golf and appointment TV, especially from this first-time venue.