UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. — Not a day has gone by at this U.S. Open without seeing something new on the young course at Chambers Bay.
A practice range that should have felt like a ghost town late Wednesday afternoon suddenly came to life when Tiger Woods arrived just as everyone was starting to leave. The grandstands were packed and photographers and TV crews crowded about.
It was rare to see Woods at the course so late. Then again, he doesn’t tee off Thursday until 5:28 EDT.
Woods will get a chance to watch the early starters on TV and see how Chambers Bay plays. Like everyone else tuning in, he’ll also see some things not normally seen in a U.S. Open:
TRAINS: There will be plenty of them, rolling across tracks between the golf course and the water. They don’t exactly come into play, but players will have to get used to the idea of them making some noise on the back nine. Expect to see them often as Fox goes all out for to show a prime time audience what a unique place Chambers Bay is.
THE TREE: That’s right, there’s only one tree on Chambers Bay, and it doesn’t even come into play. The lone fir tree was rescued in the building of the course, and rescued again when someone took an axe to it.
If you think Fox will be enamored with the trains, the tree won’t be far behind in grabbing screen time.
GREENS THAT AREN’T GREEN: The USGA gave Pinehurst No. 2 highlights of brown a year ago for the U.S. Open. That was nothing compared to the brown hues of Chambers Bay, which contrast to the rest of the lush, tree-lined Pacific Northwest.
There’s nothing wrong with the greens, in fact the course was designed to look this way. The reason is the fine fescue grass used throughout the course, including the greens. As the course is choked from water to make it firm and fast, the grass quickly loses its green shade for a brown look.
QUIRKY BOUNCES: Players spent the days before the Open trying to figure out the crazy bounces on the links-style course. That meant in some cases aiming 20-30 yards away from a pin or running the ball up to avoid it bouncing away. The player best at this may end up holding the Open trophy Sunday night.
NO FANS: Yes, there will be fans, thousands of them in an area that has eagerly embraced the national championship. But viewers will go long stretches without seeing many of them because large sections of the course where fans can’t line fairways like they would in most tournaments. Instead, many will be in grandstands, including a huge one to the right of the 18th green that is reminiscent of British Open courses.
NEW NETWORK: Of all the things viewers will find different in this year’s U.S. Open, this may top the list: If they tune their TV like they have in the past, they’ll wind up watching “Days of Our Lives” instead of Thursday’s opening round. That’s because the tournament has a new home in Fox, which wrestled away broadcast rights from the partnership of NBC and ESPN with a 12-year contract.
As part of their pitch, Fox executives promised innovation. So assuming viewers can find the right channel, they’ll be treated to aerial shots from drones, 3-D graphics and other novel ideas that should make this championship look unlike any other.