The longest hole at long Congressional yesterday was the 16th hole, a harmless par-3. That's where Fred Couples made a quadruple bogey, a seemingly endless disaster that nearly knocked the Kemper Open's first-round leader out of contention.
The golfer's nightmare went like this on the 211-yard hole: A snap-hook into the trees, the ball coming to rest against a pine for an unplayable lie. Then a drop. Then a slice beyond the green into the rough. Then a flubbed shot into a bunker. A blast out of the bunker. Then a missed putt.
"I'm going to the practice range," Couples said as he came off the course. "If I can find it."
Couples began his round on the 10th hole, playing the back nine first, and his fall from the leader board was a slow, twisting affair that did not end with the innocent-looking par-3.
He finished with a 5-over-par 77, adding three bogeys to his quadruple horror to finish the day 3 under for the tournament and trailing leader Charlie Bolling by four strokes.
Couples took a three-stroke lead Thursday with a 64 that tied the course record set in 1983 by George Burns. About the only thing Couples could be grateful for after yesterday's effort was the fact he was still in contention.
With two rounds remaining, he was tied with five others at 141.
"It was just a long day," he said. "It was hot, I was mediocre and I hit a bad shot up in the trees. That was the end of that . . . It seemed like every drive was either in a tree or under a tree."
The 16th hole was perhaps the least likely candidate for disaster. It is a long but simple par-3, nondescript save for the pines bordering the left side of the fairway. It takes a severe hook to find the trees, and that's what Couples delivered with his 3-iron.
"The pin was in the back of the green, and I thought the 3-iron was no problem," he said. "But I tried to hit it too hard and I came over the top. It didn't feel like that bad of a swing, but then I looked up and it was just way left, like 30 yards. Then I hacked it around a few more times and chipped it in a bunker."
Couples began yesterday's round well, getting a birdie on the par-3 12th to go 9 under par. But then the round began to turn ominous: he bogeyed the par-5 15th, an easy hole that has yielded numerous birdies, to go back to even heading into 16.
He collected himself briefly after the disastrous hole, with pars on the 17th and 18th. But he then started the front nine with a bogey on No. 1 and added a bogey on No. 5 before finally getting a birdie on the par-4 eighth hole. He missed a 15-foot birdie putt on the ninth.
"It's hard to swallow 64-77," he said. "But the way I was playing, I felt like I could have shot 80."
Ironically, the 16th is where Couples won the 1983 Kemper title, his first tour victory. He did it by defeating Gil Morgan, Scott Simpson, Barry Jaeckel and Chen Tze-chung in a five-way playoff. On the 16th, which was the second extra hole, Couples hit his 5-iron to within two feet and made the putt for a birdie and the victory.