Earlier this week ahead of The Memorial Tournament, Tiger Woods made his first scouting trip to Chambers Bay, the site of the U.S. Open in University Place, Washington. Woods, who arrived in the area on Sunday, played practice rounds on Monday and Tuesday and spent extra time charting the course and doing his homework on the intricate course.
Woods was asked if he liked Chambers Bay in his pre-tourney press conference.
“Do I like it?” he said, pausing.
In other words, the jury is still out — or he’s not a big fan. However, he opted for the diplomatic answer.
“Depends how it’s set up,” said Woods. “Because it can be played so many different ways. If you tip it out, it’s over 7,900. And so obviously it’s not going be to be that. So what combinations are‑‑ is Mike (Davis) going to present us? It could be a golf course in which, hey, this golf course is pretty easy. You hit long driver down there and drive it on three of the par‑4s. You can hit a lot of wedges into the holes and you tear it apart. Or he’s going to set it up the other way.
“It’s going to be frustrating, you hit driver, 5‑wood on a couple of par‑4s, that are 510 yards straight up the hill. I smoked a driver, and had a 5‑wood to the green that I can barely get to. One of the par‑4s down the hill is 546. It’s a little bit different.
“The par 5 here is 529, shorter than the par‑4 we play at Chambers. It’s a combination. I don’t know what he’s going to present to USGA. He could make it to where it’s just brutal or he can make it to where it’s pretty easy and give us a combination of both, and then switch it up on every other hole. That’s going to be the interesting part is just trying to figure that out.”
USGA Executive Director Mike Davis forewarned the players that they were going to have to do reconnaissance missions ahead of the U.S. Open if they wanted a chance to win the major championship. Woods heeded to Davis’ advice.
“When Mike says something like that, you’ve got to pay attention to it. He is an extremely bright man,” Woods said. “We got out there, and it was like, ‘Oh my god, there are so many different options here you have to know!'”
Woods spent 3.5 hours studying the front nine on Monday, took a break, and then took another 3.5 hours checking out the back nine. He said he got around quicker in Tuesday’s practice round “because we knew what to do, what to expect, what lines to take.”
Woods shared some of what he had learned at Chambers Bay, which is not your typical U.S. Open venue.
“It’s very challenging in the sense that Mike has so many options that he can present us as challenges off the tees or into the greens,” he said. “There are so many different numbers that you have to know off the tees and how that’s going to play. There’s just so many options.
“Generally you look at old school U.S. Opens, it’s narrow fairways, high rough, miss it, hack out, try and make a par from the fairway. Here at Chambers, there’s so many different landing areas and aggressive or passive lines, run the ball up, 40 feet, 50 feet, even sometimes 30 yards right of the green or left of the green, and it comes back ten feet. It’s a different type of golf course. We don’t even see this in British Opens because they’re not banked like this.
“Yeah, I understand that you can run the ball up on every hole. You have the opportunity to be able to have the opportunity to run it up, but some of the holes you can’t because they’re too long or too steep, they’re up the hill too much. We spent a lot of time there, a lot of homework, a lot of getting numbers, getting a feel for how we’re going to play it because there’s so many different options.
“I think that’s where Mike was trying to allude to earlier is you need to get there and play a lot, because he is going to present you with so many different challenges, so many different options.”
As for the intricate bunker complexes at Chambers, Woods found that the sand wasn’t consistent.
“It’s black sand,” he said. “It’s a little bit different in color. I probably can’t say it’s going to be like this during The (U.S.) Open, but we played when it was raining, so it was a little muddy.
“There were different‑‑ how can I put it‑‑ different densities to it. Some balls bounced out of there, some dug. But all the bunkers there around the greens we were able to spin, so that’s‑‑ you don’t always find that out of some bunkers where you’re able to feel like you can hit‑‑ no matter how long a shot it is, you can hit a spinner in there.”
After playing in the pro-am on Wednesday at Muirfield Village, Woods declared the state of his game as “very good” and admitted he was looking toward the second major of the season.
“It’s about peaking at the right time, getting everything organized,” Woods said. “The main thing is I want to be able to start playing well again, be in contention with a chance to win. I was there at Augusta with a chance, I’d like to get there more often and give myself more opportunities to win.
“I’m a lot more comfortable coming into this week than certainly the Players. We had to do some pretty good work going into the Players. But this one’s a little bit easier.”
Woods finished T69 in his last start at The Players Championship. Prior to that, he placed T17 at the Masters, which was rather impressive considering it was his first start back since his self-imposed hiatus earlier this year. Woods has plummeted all the way to no. 172 in the world rankings. The last time Woods won a major was at the 2008 U.S. Open and he’ll certainly have his sights set on capturing his elusive 15th major in a couple weeks time.