Glorious sun and temperatures in the 80s for a practice round on an idyllic Monday.
Temperatures in the 70s with a maximum chance of rain at just 40 percent on Tuesday and Friday. Winds never more than 12 miles per hour off Puget Sound.
One of the many quirks to this 115th U.S. Open at Chambers Bay: The first Open in the Pacific Northwest is expected to be free not only of rain but of any weather factor.
But there have been plenty of examples where Mother Nature has impacted the USGA’s showcase event:
1. 1964 Congressional Country Club,
“Everyone remembers Ken Venturi, ’64 at Congressional,” Mike Trostel, the USGA’s historian, said Monday from inside the media center just off the 18th hole at Chambers Bay.
It was hot. How stifling?
Sauna-while-wearing-a-down-parka hot: 108 degrees. Humidity above 90 percent.
Venturi was six shots off the lead midway through this oven-baked championship. That’s when he had heat exhaustion and dehydration. He gobbled salt tablets and green tea between and during rounds. Medical personnel walked with him during the final round, placing ice packs on him.
It didn’t help that the USGA set up Congressional at 7,050 yards, the longest in the 69-year history of U.S. Opens at the time.
Venturi almost collapsed after the third round. The tournament’s doctor on site told him not to play the final round that same day, because doing so could be “fatal.”
Venturi later said he didn’t remember walking to the first tee to begin his fourth round. That was after he was prone astride the first tee to get a few extra minutes of rest. The USGA granted him an extra 30 minutes between rounds; instead of eating, he rested.
Then he shot an astounding 70 to win as the rest of the field wilted even more than he had.
It was the last time the U.S. Open had a format of 18 holes each on Thursday and Friday, then 36 holes on Saturday to end it.
Heat is also the reason June’s U.S. Open has never been played in Florida. Or why it hasn’t been south of Pinehurst, North Carolina, since 1969’s Open in Houston.
The only reason Venturi was even at Congressional in ’64 was because he’d been invited to a tournament in Westchester, New York, two weeks before by the owner of the New York Rangers. Had Bill Jennings not done that, a previously struggling Venturi (one tournament win in four years) said he would have quit golf for good and gone back to selling cars.
In one way, that would have been cooler than his Open.
2. 1972 Pebble Beach, California
With wind howling off the Pacific Ocean at 40 miles per hour, Tom Kite would have been the appropriate winner of this Open.
Alas, Kite finished 19th, 12 shots behind Jack Nicklaus.
The “Golden Bear’s” third of four U.S. Open titles has been immortalized because of one shot since dubbed “a miracle.”
It was a tee shot with a 1-iron. That’s a club that contemporary Lee Trevino — whom Nicklaus overcame along with other fellow legends and the elements that day 43 years ago — once said “not even God can hit.”
After a furious rally by Arnold Palmer, Nicklaus led by three strokes as he and his 1-iron approached the 17th tee. The wind forced his club’s face to close further than he wanted. Noticing this, Nicklaus made a split-second adjustment as his iron struck the ball. His shot sliced the wind as if it was a machete, hit the flag stick and stopped, well … yes, miraculously, five inches from the hole.
Nicklaus birdied 17 to seal his three-shot win.
3. 1940, Canterbury, Cleveland
Canterbury Golf Club could have been an original “Porky’s” — if only Porky hadn’t tried to beat the rain.
Ed “Porky” Oliver ended his final round with a total score of 287. That should have been good enough to join a playoff with Lawson Little and 38-year-old Gene Sarazen.
Oliver and five others had started their final rounds ahead of their tee times because they had seen a storm forming and wanted to get going before it arrived.
As Trostel provided from the USGA’s official summary of all previous Opens: “Joe Dey of the USGA was the starter, but he was having lunch at the time. The marshal on hand warned the players not to start, but they ignored him.”
So Oliver went out — too early — and ripped up Canterbury before the rain. Then the USGA ripped up Oliver, disqualifying him. He cried upon getting the bad word.
Sarazen and Little even pleaded with USGA officials to let Porky play in their playoff. But the decision stood.
Little beat Sarazen over those extra holes to become the fifth player to win the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur.
4. 2009, Bethpage, Long Island, New York
This as a U.S. Open only Noah and his ark would have loved.
It rained for days and days. Five of them, in all, for this Open to become only the third ever to end in regulation on a Monday.
Biblical-like downpours led to delayed tee times at dusk. Impromptu water hazards of muddy, sloppy overflow spawned all over Bethpage Black.
Boo Weekley shot 79-72 to miss the soggy cut, then said: “It was so wet, I saw frogs climbing up the clubhouse walls trying to get out.”
Lucas Glover, a 29-year-old from South Carolina, beat Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, everyone else — and, yes the rain — to win the longest 72 holes anyone can remember for a U.S. Open. Or any Open.
“A round never started and finished on the same day,” Trostel said.
5. 1991, Hazeltine National, Chaska, Minnesota
The Midwest’s notorious late-spring thunderstorms turned tragic at Hazeltine when a lightning strike during the first round killed one spectator and injured five others.
During the first round, skies turned charcoal black and electricity zapped down 30 miles west of Minneapolis. After about a half-hour of that, the USGA suspended play. Golfers rushed into vans that took them back to the locker room in the clubhouse. The fans? No vans for them.
Minnesota native William Fadell, 27, died after being struck by lightning while standing under a tree near the 11th tee.
“Sad, sad, sad,” Lee Trevino said after his delayed round. “I shot a lousy 77, but it doesn’t matter.”
Trevino added: “They said they sounded a siren out there. If they did, I never heard it.”
This week at Chambers Bay, signs on the back of the grandstands state: “If play is suspended, grandstands will be closed immediately.”
Not that anyone is expecting that during this brilliant Northwest week of world-class golf.