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In Depth: US can learn from The Open

THE two most important championships in golf have historically demanded polar opposite styles of play but that might be changing.

THE two most important championships in golf have historically demanded polar opposite styles of play but that might be changing.

The US Open, for the most part, has presented a course where narrow fairways bounded by thick rough were the order of the day, aerial play the only realistic option for success.

Conversely the Open Championship has generally demanded more ground play, the bouncy links of the UK featuring short grass around the putting surfaces and multiple options to get the ball close to the hole.

But at Chambers Bay a fortnight ago USGA Executive Director Mike Davis unveiled the latest in an evolving US Open style, one that looks more like it's UK counterpart, and it's one not everyone is happy with.

What began with graduated rough in 2006 at Winged Foot and has included radical (by US Open standards) moves such as shortening holes by as much as 100 yards from one day to the next (Torrey Pines 14th hole, 2008 and Olympic Club 16th in 2012) culminated in Davis' most daring set-up yet at Chambers Bay.

The first and 18th holes alternated pars on different days and the par-3 ninth played as two completely different holes depending on the tee used.

The most significant change of the past two years, however, has been in the style of play required to succeed and the look of the courses being played.

At the renovated Pinehurst last year players were presented with the least US Open looking course in recent memory.

Gone was the hack-out rough bordering fairways and greens, replaced with wide playing corridors bounded by wispy grasses and sandy waste.

Around the greens was short grass aplenty, eventual champion Martin Kaymer electing to putt from off the green more often than not and scoring a runaway victory.

This year, too, saw a very untraditional US Open aesthetic and, even more than Pinehurst, a course that asked questions not part of the 'traditional' US Open examination.

CHAMBERS BAY COURSE:

 

The ground game was very much in play at Chambers Bay, wide fairways giving players options from the tee and back and sideboards around the greens offering the chance to use the slopes of the course to feed the ball near the hole.

It's a style of golf many find more entertaining to both watch and play, rather than the demanding test of execution that narrow courses present.

Davis is to be applauded for promoting golf that is less reliant on water and aesthetically less green in the face of strong protest from several quarters.

It is a brave path for him to tread but the trick if he is to succeed in changing the way golf presents itself at the top level is in getting the set-up right and that might be the most difficult of all.

To convince die-hard US Open fans, and golfers in general, that this is the right direction for the game and tournament Davis needs to let the players play.

Chambers Bay, while another step in the right direction, unfortunately didn't do that. The firmness of the course negated any potential use of the contours of the ground, balls bouncing and rolling unpredictably upon landing and on more than one occasion making players look silly.

Added to that was the poor condition of the putting surfaces, not a deliberate move by organisers but damaging to the image of the tournament nonetheless.

At the Old Course in two weeks golf fans will be treated to links golf at its finest on a course that has evolved over time into arguably the best in the world.

It will look similar to Chambers Bay in parts but it will play nothing like its American counterpart. St Andrews will reward imaginative play and creative shot making and test every part of the golfers' game, the ability to think their way around the course included.

It will represent everything golf could and should be.

If Mike Davis can learn more of the lessons St Andrews has to teach, the game will be better for it.

ST ANDREWS PREPERATIONS:

 

Rod Morri
About The Author : Rod Morri

Rod is an award-winning golf journalist with more than 20 years experience and has covered everything from major tournaments to junior golf at the local level. Rod began his life in the media as a daily news reporter for News Limited in Sydney.

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