The course will be the main attraction, but there are also five local golfers competing in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, two of which have a chance to win, one more than the other.
Ranked 32nd in the world, Ryan Moore of Puyallup has a shot to win any tournament anywhere at any time. Problem is, he’s won only four tournaments in his career and two of them were the same one, the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, where he’s held up the trophy the last two years.
Michael Putnam, who grew up a mile from Chambers Bay, also thinks he can win the U.S. Open this week. Problem is, after being the No. 1 player on the Web.com Tour last year, he has had an up-and-down rookie year on the PGA Tour. His best finish was a tie for 15th in the Humana Challenge in January, and Putnam has missed the cut in five of his last seven tourneys.
It would be a monumental upset if one of the other three local players – Cheng-Tsung Pan, Richard Lee or Troy Kelly – won the championship.
Pan, who recently completed his sparkling career at Washington, finished second at the NCAA Championships. Husky golf coach Matt Thurmond will caddy for him at the U.S. Open. Lee and Kelly also played at Washington and are coming off injuries but qualified for the U.S. Open last week at the Tumble Creek course at Suncadia.
Moore has the most realistic chance. He grew up playing the Classic Golf Club in Spanaway, and the tightness of the tree-lined course has helped him in his pro career.
Talking about his junior days, Moore said: “You would go play other courses (and think), ‘These aren’t very hard. There’s so much space to it, and I’m not hitting behind trees every single time.’ So it almost made tournament golf a little bit easier in a way.”
Moore likes to think he’ll have a hometown advantage but isn’t sure if it will play out that way.
“I’m going to have a pretty good crowd out there,” he said. “It will be great to get that local support, something I’ve never experienced before. So I almost don’t really know what to expect when I get out there.
“It’s huge for us players that are from around here … and it’s huge for this area. This is a very golf-starved area. So it’s huge for us to have an event like this for the rest of the world to get to see how great this area is.”
Moore will have local knowledge, having played the course more than most of the other pros, but Putnam has played it more than anyone else in the field, 30 times in the last five years. He was the first player to hit a ball at Chambers Bay seven years ago, shooting a 70, and will be the first to hit one in the U.S. Open, teeing off at 7 a.m. Thursday.
“It’s a cool honor to have,” Putnam said.
Putnam qualified for the U.S. Open in a 36-hole sectional at Columbus, Ohio, and thinks he’s in good form now. After a practice round at Chambers Bay on Sunday, he even pictured himself as the 2015 U.S. Open champion.
“I took a look at (the trophy) and realized this would be the best place to ever win a U.S. Open in my entire career,” Putnam said. “And I feel like I’ve got a good chance. I’m well-rested, and others are mentally struggling, trying to figure this place out. Hopefully it will be just a little bit of an advantage going into the week.”
Friday tee times: Putnam at 7 a.m. from the 1st tee. Lee at 7:11 a.m. from the 1st tee. Kelly at 7 a.m. from the 10th tee. Moore at 2:50 p.m. from the 1st tee. Pan at 3:01 p.m. from the 10th tee.
Friday tee times: Putnam at 1 p.m. from the 1st tee. Lee at 1:11 p.m. from the 1st tee. Kelly at 1 p.m. from the 10th tee. Moore at 8:50 a.m. from the 1st tee. Pan at 9:01 a.m. from the 10th tee.