By Mark Lamport-Stokes
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Washington (Reuters) - Whether the players love or hate Chambers Bay, they will face a "comprehensive test" in firm and fast conditions at this week's U.S. Open, says United States Golf Association chief Mike Davis.
The links-style layout, constructed on a site along Puget Sound on land formerly used as a rock quarry and also as a sand and gravel mine, was baked hard during an unusually dry and warm May, and sunny weather has been forecast for the next four days.
While the par-70 course has not met with universal approval, with the first and 18th holes set to switch between par-fours and par-fives depending on wind conditions, USGA executive director Davis said he was pleased with the set-up.
"We've got a nice firm and fast golf course," Davis said on Wednesday, on the eve of the year's second major championship.
"We didn't know what to expect this year coming in, whether it was going to be really a green view or now it's become more of a tan with some greens in there.
"But it's been great. From a set-up standpoint and really presenting the golf course for a championship test, we couldn't be happier."
With elongated tee areas occasionally set on a slight slope, semi-blind shots from the fairway, fescue grass throughout and pronounced elevation changes -- there is much to test the composure of players.
Banked hills and undulations in the fairways and around the greens allow for multiple ways of playing shots, and tee boxes can be set to change the look and strategy of holes from round to round.
"In terms of set-up, while I can't tell you the exact numbers yet, I would guess the next four days we will play somewhere between 7,300 yards and probably around 7,700 yards ... depending on wind conditions," said Davis.
"The greens are predominantly fine fescue, and this is a surface we have never played on in a U.S. Open for a putting green. These are actually speeding up a little bit as the day goes on, so we are planning for that."
With fescue grass on the fairways and greens, the USGA has unusually had to demarcate the putting surface with white dots about a yard apart, but Davis is satisfied that the players will undergo a traditional U.S. Open test.
"Ultimately while it's going to be different, while it's aesthetically going to be different, architecturally really different, we are going to remain true to really what a U.S. Open is and what it's been," he said.
"(That is) a great comprehensive test of shot-making skills, course management skills, ability to handle your nerves, and I think truly anybody that's walked this, there's a bit of an endurance test, as well."
(Editing by Larry Fine)