“Visually, I love the course — old school, beautiful-looking, huge mature trees. They’ve [lengthened it], but it still manages to flow from one hole to the next. It feels like it fits” the land, defending U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell said Monday after seeing Congressional for the first time in his life and realizing that, well, it probably couldn’t suit his medium-long game much worse. Ultra-long high-ball blasters flourish here; few others need apply.
Even golf fans may not sense how unusual it is to get an Open. The U.S. Golf Association moves its glamour event all around the country to promote the game, sometimes to towns such as Pinehurst, N.C., Tulsa, or Tacoma, Wash. To the USGA, being a mega-market is a mixed blessing.
“You wonder, ‘Jeez, is this traffic and parking going to work?’ ” USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said. “And we’re still not sure here in D.C.”
Logistics, rather than an historic course or big crowds or an exciting tournament, may define whether the U.S. Open remains an institution here or a memory.
For now, the Beltway, a far more vicious animal now than it was in ’97, has not yet sunk Washington’s place in big-time golf. We get to gawk at the 636-yard ninth hole with a vast gulch in front and unplayable rough at the bottom. Is the 11th hole even playable?
“The 18th hole might be the hardest hole I’ve ever seen,” McDowell said.
Just a few more weeks and it’ll be time to mow the greens until the Stimpmeters read a lightning 14.5, compared to those calming 11.5 readings at Pebble Beach last year.
It’s big-time golf. Get the on-site 24/7 psychiatrists ready. These guys are going to need ’em. The U.S. Open is coming back to big broad-shoulder Congressional. You never know when, or if, it’ll happen again. And, in sports, it doesn’t get any better.