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Friday, June 27, 2014
Mike Davis: '15 Open course unique

By Terry Blount
ESPN.com

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. -- Do your homework, boys.

That was the message Friday from USGA executive director Mike Davis to all the golfers who hope to qualify for the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay on the banks of Puget Sound.

"This is a very different golf course," Davis said. "We have never played a national open on fine fescue [grass]. This is a first. It feels like a British Open, but even British Opens do not have all fine fescue putting greens. The vast majority of the golfers will not have played on fine fescue greens. It has a much different look to it. When you watch a putt, it doesn't bounce. It's firm, but they roll beautifully."

The Chambers Bay course is a former gravel pit that was transformed into a British links-style course in 2007, with tall dunes and no trees except for the "Lone Fir" behind the 15th green.

The 2015 event will be the first time the U.S. Open has gone to a new golf course in 45 years.

"This is a little bit of out-of-the-box thinking for the USGA," Davis said. "The last time we truly came to a new golf course for the U.S. Open was Minneapolis in 1970 at Hazeltine. To say we are excited to come here would be the understatement of the year."

The feel of the fescue greens will be an adjustment for all the players. And Davis said the players will need to learn what to expect on a U.S. Open course like no other. The course has many other unique aspects to its architecture, including banked hills that can be used to a player's advantage.

"I have seen close to a thousand golf courses in my life, but I've never seen one that has the aspect of backboards," Davis said. "There are at least a dozen holes where you can play from Point A to Point B by using Point C and letting it use backboard drift."

Par is expected to be 70, but the USGA has plans to change the first hole and the 18th hole between a par 5 and a par 4 on different days, based on where the tee and hole locations are placed. The length of the course could vary from 7,200 to 7,600 yards.

The event still is 50 weeks away, and there's a lot to do, Davis said. He noted three greens were rebuilt to make them 100 percent fescue, as are the other greens.

"Right now, we're focusing on the grass," Davis said. "We want to make sure it's as healthy as it can be. The course is built on all sand, and that's an important aspect. You get a bounciness to the golf course."

Davis believes the players that know Chambers Bay and study the course will have an advantage.

"Coming into any championship, there's always that element of the unknown," Davis said. "Fescue greens will be unique. I think the vast majority [of players] will embrace them, assuming we get them in the right condition. They should love it."

But he knows some players won't love it.

"I've been a part of 25 U.S. Opens and read the history going back to 1895," Davis said. "One thing I can say almost without fail -- the players that embrace the setup and the architecture are the ones that have success. The players that come in and complain about things, they don't play well.

"You hear the stories about how Jack Nicklaus loved it when he started hearing complaints about the setup of a U.S. Open course. He would say, 'OK, that person's gone, that person I don't have to worry about,' and so on."

Davis expects to see a lot of the pros come to Chambers Bay early and learn all they can.

"I suspect there probably will be more [than usual]," Davis said. "When we went to Merion [for the 2013 U.S. Open in Ardmore, Pennsylvania], we hadn't played there since 1981. So every player was coming there for the first time.

"As I look back, there were two players that came in a played the most ahead of time -- Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson. They finished 1-2."

Davis believes the same could be true of how things turn out at Chambers Bay.

"You are not going to know [Chambers Bay] in one or two rounds," he said. "You have to have vision and imagination. I think the prudent player will come out early and try to learn the golf course."

Davis believes the uniqueness of the course will make the 2015 U.S. Open one to remember.

"I think it's going to be fascinating," he said. "The golfers are going to see things here they have never seen before at a U.S. Open. It's going to be fun to watch."