University Place, Wash. — T.J. Bordeaux lives just up the hill from Chambers Bay Golf Course. To him, the host site of this week’s U.S. Amateur Championship is like driving to the local coffee shop.
It’s down the road from home, so sometimes I don’t think of it as being more than my local course. I’m just at home, he said on Tuesday. Now, when I played in the ’08 Amateur at Pinehurst, with all of its history, that was a little bit different.
Entering the week, there was a prevailing thought that Bordeaux, Andrew Putnam —who lives a long par 5 from Chambers Bay — and a few others within an hour’s drive might hold an advantage.
Putnam chuckled at the notion.
It really didn’t do any good playing it beforehand, because it was a totally different course when you got there, said Putnam, who estimated he had played 10 rounds at Chambers Bay before shooting a 13-over 84 on Monday. The round eliminated Putnam, 21, from making the 64-player match play field despite a second-round 71 at The Home Course.
Bordeaux, 22, a senior at Pacific University, understands the home field line of thinking, but issued a reminder that Chambers Bay is a field that has received an extreme makeover.
Everyone’s been asking me that, he said in reference to advantages. The greens, for one, are firmer, the fairways run out more and the course is about 600 yards longer [than normal]. So it’s not close to being the same course I would play any other time.
Bordeaux will get another crack at Chambers Bay in Wednesday’s opening round of match play. He shot 3-over-par 146 in stroke play that included a 2-over 73 along the Puget Sound on Monday.
Of the players listing home as being within an hour’s drive, Bordeaux will be joined in match play by a pair of Olympians — Cameron Peck (2-over 145) and Jarred Bossio (4-over 147) — who played Chambers in afternoon conditions.
Bossio last played Chambers Bay during a junior tournament soon after the course opened in 2007. He remembered the course playing to about 6,200 yards and being able to hit wedges into most par 3s. Meanwhile, Peck counted three previous rounds at Chambers Bay, the last being in July.
You have to throw out what you previously knew about this course, said Peck, a sophomore at Texas A&M, who won the 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. I like to play hard courses, instead of courses where you shoot really, really low.
Tuesday’s round played into Peck’s wheelhouse. Chambers Bay yielded just two scores of par or better after seven on Monday.
I knew it was going to be really tough, so I wanted to keep [my score] somewhere around par, he said, and I was able to accomplish that.
Mindsets now turn to match play and the so-called locals have differing opinions on what Chambers Bay will allow. Bordeaux, Peck and Putnam believe pars will win a number of holes, while Bossio is a bit more brazen in his prediction.
I think there are a lot of birdie opportunities out there, said Bossio, a junior at the University of Idaho, who totaled four birdies in the second round. The key will be to limit your mistakes and you can’t short-side yourself.
If there is an advantage to be had, it may very well come from along the wispy fescue. Bossio cited a couple of occasions on Tuesday’s back nine in which a growing gallery expressed their appreciation, especially at the par-5 18th hole when he pulled the string on his approach and rolled in a 4-foot putt for birdie.
I’ve never experienced anything like that in a tournament, he said.
No doubt he and the remaining 63 players should be prepared for just about anything Chambers Bay has to offer when match play begins.
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship Web sites.