Dry conditions and near-normal temperatures will greet the world's elite golfers for the 2015 U.S. Open, as they compete on the daunting Chambers Bay golf course in University Place, Washington.
Under partly sunny skies, temperatures should generally be near normal, which is about 71 degrees Fahrenheit, through the tournament in University Place, AccuWeather Meteorologist Dave Samuhel said. Play runs from Thursday, June 18, through Sunday, June 21.
The highest chance of a pop-up shower during the tournament will come on Friday, Samuhel said. Increased cloud cover will also hold the high down in the upper 60s during the day on Friday.
While this year marks the 115th edition of the tournament, it's the first time it's been held in the Pacific Northwest.
Chambers Bay, a links-style course located about an hour south of Seattle, sits along the shores of Puget Sound and presents "unpredictable coastal winds" as one of its many inherent challenges.
"Wind is the great X-factor in golf," said Bradley Klein, architecture editor of Golfweek Magazine and author of numerous books on golf course design.
For the world's top players who comprise the PGA Tour, wind is just one of three elements in their shot selection. The wind can change from day to day or even every hour, constantly forcing golfers to note which way the wind is blowing. At Chambers Bay, which Klein said is "a massive bowl of a golf course site," the wind can also swirl in pockets. The other two elements involved in a golfer's shot are distance targeting, which relies on aerial precision and consistent trajectory, and the ground game.
The fairways of Chambers Bay are made of fescue grass and are known to be firm, which will let the ball run farther.
The grass can stay alive and healthy in dry conditions, even if it looks starved and toasty, said Klein, who has also worked as a caddie on the PGA Tour.
"The drier the ground conditions, the longer the ball runs out and the more the players will have to judge their landing spot to get the ball to stop where they want it," Klein said. "The wetter the ground, the less the roll and the easier it is to pick and keep to a targeted landing zone."
While the Puget Sound area is not officially in a drought, it has been unusually dry since the beginning of May, according to Samuhel.
How a golfer's short game plays out on the putting green can determine whether their name moves to the top or bottom of the leaderboard. The United States Golf Association (USGA), which strives to make the course as daunting as possible, would prefer firm greens so the ball will bounce and roll out rather than stick when it lands.
"I would say the USGA prefers greens on the drier side rather than the softer, but not so dry and firm that the players can't land the ball on the green and keep it there," Klein said.
Throughout the tournament, the USGA will have a meteorology staff at the course continuously monitoring the threat for any severe weather. If it becomes evident that stormy conditions will approach Chambers Bay, weather alerts will be displayed on leaderboards and video boards around the course, according to the USGA. An air-horn blast will indicate that play has been halted.
Spectators attending the event should immediately find indoor shelter at the first sign of thunder or lightning.