UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. - Citing wind conditions, the USGA made a decision to play the 18th hole at Chambers Bay on Sunday as a par 5 rather than turn the final hole of the U.S. Open into a par 4 which was sure to generate more controversy.
No doubt, the decision met with the approval of Masters champion Jordan Spieth, who called the par 4 setup in the second round "the dumbest hole ever."
The daily course setup sheet issued by the USGA said the decision was made on Saturday because of a forecast for a north wind that would significantly reduce the "effective playing width of the left-to-right sloping fairway." The hole played as a 601-yard par 5, giving players a far better chance for birdie at the end of the round because they would be using short irons for their third shot if they didn't reach the green in two.
On Friday, Spieth said only a handful of players could carry a fairway bunker on the left when the hole played as a par 4. He said he drove into the bunker because he wasn't going to lay up with a 3-iron off the tee of a 514-yard par 4 and leave himself with a 3-wood to the green.
After the third-round, Spieth was in a four-way tie for the lead and was anticipating the 18th would play as a par 4 in the final round. He suggested he would have played down the adjacent No. 1 fairway "even though it adds 20 yards to the hole. It's going to be based on the position I'm in. I hope to hit a 6-iron off that tee, but that would mean things have to go very well before that."
Overall, the USGA tried to keep Chambers Bay playable, moving up several tees and playing the course at 7,384 yards on Sunday. In the second round, the front nine played 4,020 yards, and the full length was 7,695.
Sip of water for greens
The USGA also reportedly put more water on the greens Saturday night to preserve them for the final round. Louis Oosthuizen, who was tied for fifth at 1-under, after three rounds, said, "The greens are so firm now, and it's pretty dead, the grass, so you need to work the slopes on the greens to get it close . . . The first hole doesn't look too good. I think everyone expected the greens to be better."
Oosthuizen shot a first-round 77, but his 66-66-132 in the middle 36 holes set a U.S. Open record, one stroke less than Loren Roberts (1994) and Jim Furyk (2003). The biggest comeback over the final 54 holes by a winner was in 1955 by Jack Fleck, who was nine shots back after the first round. Oosthuizen trailed by 12 . . . Chris Kirk made a 10 at the par 4 first hole after attempting five approaches from below the green that all rolled back down to his feet . . . Former St. John's player Keegan Bradley nearly holed his drive on the 270-yard par 4 12th, where his ball rolled up a slope on the right, back over to the slope on the left and down within a foot of the pin. He tapped in the eagle putt.