Nick Bonfield gives his view on Mike Davis and the pre-tournament furore as the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay draws ever nearer
So here we are again. Every year, the season’s second Major Championship is shrouded in controversy. The naysayers have already labeled Chambers Bay a ‘farce’, while the age-old and infuriatingly short-sighted rhetoric about the US Open being too difficult will start to pitch up over the next 10 days or so.
I love the US Open. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s my favourite event of the year. Why? A number of reasons, but perhaps the most salient is the fact I love to watch professional golfers scrap for their lives.
In this day and age, target golf has become the norm on the PGA Tour and double-figures under-par wins virtually every tournament. For one week a year (and possibly The Open Championship, depending on conditions) it’s wonderful to watch the world’s best toil in an event where pars are truly valuable.
Some bemoan the fact they aren’t able to watch the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods fire at every flag in an out-and-out birdie fest. Are these people not satisfied with such occasions fourty-plus weeks of the year? It’s almost as if they can’t comprehend that viewing pleasure can be derived from watching players battle not only a truly testing golf course, but also their own minds.
I have real admiration for Mike Davis, the USGA’s executive director, for his strict adherence to his principles. He knows what he wants from the event, even if many are publicly opposed, and he simply won’t bow down to player peer pressure in an age where top professionals are as pampered as they’ve ever been.
His lack of altruism is truly refreshing. I particularly enjoyed his comments about preparation, dedication and desire to win:
“I would contend that there is no way, no way a player would have success at Chambers Bay unless he really studies the golf course and learns it.
“The idea of coming in and playing two practice rounds and having your caddy just walk it and using your yardage book, that person’s done. He will not win the US Open.”
Some, naturally, have taken umbrage at those comments, while others have decided that giving themselves the best possible chance of success is more important than kicking up a fuss. I’d recommend the pessimists direct their efforts towards formulating a strategy, rather than complaining.
The likes of Phil Mickelson – a man in his mid-40s – and Tiger Woods have found time to scope out Chambers Bay already. There’s no reason everyone in the field couldn’t do the same thing. Players have complete control over their own schedules; if they don’t visit the host venue before tournament week, I’m afraid it’s a question of priorities.
I’m delighted to see courses like Chambers Bay being given the opportunity to host such prestigious tournaments, because it represents a move away from the formulaic layouts used all year on the PGA Tour.
Peter Uihlen, the man who won the US Amateur here in 2010, emphasised the importance of creativity and imagination. Many Americans may not see it this way – a product of the courses they’ve been brought up on – but those facets should be as integral to professional golf as anything else. The blame for the fact they’re currently not lies at the feet of PGA Tour officials.
The bottom line is that, however hard the Chambers Bay might play, it’s the same for everyone. I simply don’t understand the logic behind labeling a course set-up unfair when success in golf is relative to everyone else competing in the same event, on the same layout, at the same time.
It strikes me players have two options: enjoy the challenge and try and find a solution to the problem, or whinge and ultimately bring about their own downfall.
Whatever approach they take, I’ll be gleefully glued to the television screen watching this inimitable tournament unfold.