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SportsColumnistsGreg Logan

Mixed green make for bitter salad at U.S. Open

Sergio Garcia walks during a practice round prior

Sergio Garcia walks during a practice round prior to the start of the 115th U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay on June 17, 2015 in University Place, Wash. Credit: Getty Images / Harry How



When his first round of the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay was over on Thursday, Sergio Garcia took to Twitter to express himself about course conditions at the first-time major championship venue. Never a good idea when you're upset.

Garcia tweeted: "I think a championship of the caliber of @usopengolf deserves better quality green surfaces that [sic] we have this week but maybe I'm wrong!"

At first, there was an uproar from fans critical of Garcia for knocking the first U.S. Open in the Pacific Northwest, but it wasn't long before an amen chorus of players backed him up.

Henrik Stenson, the first-round co-leader after shooting a 65 in the morning, had the harshest words after a second-round 74 in the afternoon, when the greens were at their bumpiest where poa annua mixes with the fine fescue grass the USGA intended to cover 100 percent of the course. The poa buds in the afternoon when the fescue lies down, creating an uneven surface.

Stenson said it was "like putting on broccoli." World No. 1 Rory McIlroy begged to differ Saturday. "I don't think they're as green as broccoli," McIlroy said. "More like cauliflower."

Thanks to tough conditions late Friday, the cut line moved up to 5-over, bringing 15 more players back into the field, including Garcia. He shot even- par 70 in yesterday's third round and then spoke to a few reporters to explain his Twitter remarks.

"My tweet wasn't a criticism," Garcia said. "I was trying to make a statement to make sure the USGA doesn't allow this to happen to one of the best tournaments we have all year. Forget about us [the players]. The majors deserve to be in great shape. Unfortunately, that didn't happen this week, and the U.S. Open deserves better than that."

Garcia was quick to note that a few of the greens at Chambers Bay are all fine fescue and putt perfectly. He said the seventh, 10th and 13th "are all fescue and all beautiful. The only way to fix them is to redo them all and just have them with fescue."

The body language displayed by many players is evidence they are frustrated by how much is left to chance on the greens. "Obviously, luck is always a factor in golf, but this is pushing it a little bit," Garcia said. "This is beyond luck. Sometimes it's hope. Some putts you hit and you hope it's going to take the right bounce right or left . . . It just doesn't feel right."

Many players also have criticized the setup at Chambers Bay, but Garcia praised the USGA and executive director Mike Davis for the way they have set up the course the past several years to give players more options, especially around the greens. Garcia enjoys the quirky aspect of Chambers Bay, where several holes can be played from radically different tees, even changing the par on Nos. 1 and 18.

"I love the way they play with the tees," Garcia said. "I love how they mix it up. Sometimes we play a par 3 that is 220 yards, and the next day, it's playing 130. I think that's great. That makes us think. That is good. That is part of the game, and I think Mike has been doing a good job with that throughout these years."

Asked if he's against holding the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, Garcia called that impression "totally wrong. The only thing I said is the U.S. Open deserves better surfaces than this, and I know they can do it because we have three greens that are really good."

It's a problem that must be fixed before the USGA brings its showcase event back to Chambers Bay.

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