Congressional’s Blue Course Gets a Facelift and Some Distance
Congressional gears up to host the 2011 U.S. Open.
Preparation started almost immediately for the tournament, set for June 16-19. Course renovations have been about two years in the making. The rough is longer, the greens are faster and the course has been stretched out an extra 300 yards, United States Golf Association Executive Director Mike Davis said in a press event at the country club Monday. This is the second longest course in U.S. Open history.
“Congressional is a big course and it’s always been that way,” Davis said. “It’s going to be a big test.”
Last year’s U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell played the course Monday morning and attested to its difficulty.
“The front nine beat me up,” McDowell said.
The back nine was a challenge as well.
“I’m not sure if I played the right tee on 11, Mike. You’ll have to tell me. I hit a really good drive and still had 240 yards to the pin. I couldn’t get there with a 3-wood. I’m hoping I’ve got the wrong tee on 11,” McDowell said. “I have nothing good to say about 11. It’s a hell of a task.”
The biggest redesign is changing the finishing hole. In the last U.S. Open that Congressional hosted in 1997, the 18th hole was a par three, which some thought was anticlimactic. Now the 18th hole is a mammoth 523-yard par 4 with a green guarded by water on the back and sides.
“It’s the toughest hole I’ve ever played,” McDowell said.
While playing the course Monday morning, McDowell tweeted, "No-one will break par.”
Greens will also be a challenge. The greens were recently changed to a hybrid bent grass which will prove to be slick. They’ll register 14.5 on the Stimpmeter, which is used to measure green speeds, compared to 11.5 at Pebble Beach last year for the U.S. Open.
And then there’s that famous U.S. Open rough. Since 2006, when the U.S. Open was played at Winged Foot, the USGA has instituted graduated rough, said Tom O’Toole, chairman of the USGA’s Championship Committee. The fairways are narrowed and the there are three cuts of rough that started at around an inch and graduate up to about six inches if a player’s ball strays too far from the fairway, said O’Toole, who has officiated every U.S. Open since 1990.
Other than the course, the big challenge will be controlling crowds and D.C.’s notoriously bad traffic.
“We’re crossing our fingers on traffic and parking,” Davis said.
Congressional was host to the U.S. Open in 1997, when Ernie Els won, and in 1964 when Ken Venturi overcame heatstroke to win the tournament.