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Chambers Bay starts 1-year countdown to 1st US Open in Pacific Northwest

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UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. - Finally, Chambers Bay is on the clock.

It feels longer than six years ago that the 2015 U.S. Open was awarded to the public golf course along Puget Sound that will be the host for the first championship played in the Pacific Northwest.

But once Martin Kaymer was handed the championship trophy at Pinehurst No. 2 on Sunday, the focus of the USGA shifted to the opposite corner of the country.

"As opposed to being nervous as we get closer, I'm actually getting more excited because with the preparation I've been getting emails since 2008, I'm ready to be able to tell people stuff," said Danny Sink, the USGA's championship director based at Chambers Bay. "We're only a year out now. We've got mileposts. And a year out is I would arguably say the biggest milepost that you have when it comes to the championship."

While Pinehurst, Oakmont, Pebble Beach and Olympic all have significant history with the USGA, Chambers Bay is an infant with no backstory on hosting major events outside of the 2010 U.S. Amateur.

The lack of history brings questions. But Sink said that outside the ropes, the questions and concerns aren't that different from those at the other venues.

The one area where the USGA will be trying to spread the message is on the public-use areas that weave through and around the golf course. The large meadow just to the south of the 18th fairway will become a massive staging compound for the USGA during the tournament. The public walking path through the course will be shut down when the course shuts for good to public play — likely around Memorial Day 2015.

Notable building around the course — temporary structures, grandstands — will start in earnest next March.

The last lingering questions that won't be answered until next spring concern the transportation plan and how the USGA intends on getting potentially up to 30,000 spectators per day in and out of a residential area with only a couple of main roads in and out. Expect a lot of bus shuttles and possibly train service.

"If you look at the U.S. Open as a puzzle ... you always do the outside first. The outside is done. It's getting those pieces inside put together," Sink said. "It's not a huge rush and we don't rush to say this is where you're going to park, this is how many minutes it's going to take. We want to make sure it's right."

Inside the ropes is where Chambers Bay will draw most of its attention, ramping up over the next six months. While the focus on the course will increase, the amount of traffic on the golf course itself will decrease.

In an effort not to overtax the fine fescue grass that covers the course, the management at Chambers Bay will start limiting the number of rounds per day beginning later this summer. Instead of tee times from dusk to dawn, the window will shrink.

By the time the winter months roll around, and the fescue grass goes dormant, the course plans to open only three days per week, with the rest of the time spent on maintenance to get ready for next year.

"Maybe 40 rounds a day, three days a week and the other four days the greens will be covered," Chambers Bay general manager Matt Allen said.

The limitation of rounds is the second major step the course has taken in the last year to specifically protect the greens. Management shut down five greens for more than six months at the end of last season to make sure they were healthy going into the peak of the 2014 golf season. Those greens only recently reopened.

"It's a links golf course and the first time on fine fescue grass. We certainly want to take that into account and make sure that's not the story in a bad way," Sink said. "We want that to be a positive."

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