Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, site of the 1964 and 1997 U.S. Open golf tournaments, has become the leading candidate to host the Open for a third time in 2011, and likely will be the site of the 2009 U.S. Amateur championship as well. A decision could be announced this fall.
A source at the U.S. Golf Association confirmed yesterday that Congressional likely will be the Open venue in 2011, with the 2010 Open expected to go to Pebble Beach -- 10 years after that California course hosted the event. The decision on Pebble Beach probably will be announced at the Open in two weeks at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island.
"They've been working on Pebble Beach for 2010 and they have to finalize that first before they do anything else," said Ben Brundred III, the former Congressional president who has been the club's point man for landing another Open. "We're hearing that we're certainly in the running and that we're probably the leading candidate right now."
USGA spokesman Marty Parkes said: "We were delighted the way the Open went in '97 at Congressional. There's been mutual interest in trying to bring another Open back to the club. At this point, we haven't reached any agreement or made any announcement. We've also talked about 2009 [for the U.S. Amateur at Congressional]."
The club's board of directors has been actively seeking another Open for the course since '97, and has been in negotiations to secure the 2005 Booz Allen Classic, Washington's PGA Tour event that has been played at nearby TPC at Avenel since 1987. The club's members are voting whether to approve the Booz Allen event for one year, with a majority necessary to hold the tournament at the storied venue off River Road.
The Congressional membership also would have to approve a U.S. Amateur or U.S. Open, but that is generally considered a formality. The members have never voted against a board recommendation to host a significant professional tournament.
Brundred said the USGA has asked the club to begin lining up commitments from a number of potential vendors, including hotels, caterers and parking sites for both the Amateur and the Open. He described that request as "a very positive sign." USGA officials visited Congressional in September 2000 and again last September.
The Amateur includes a stroke-play qualifying competition that would be held on Congressional's two 18-hole courses, the Blue and the Gold. The Blue course, used in the first two Opens, would be the only course used for the match-play portion of the Amateur competition.
The Blue course also would be the Open course, with a slightly different configuration than the '97 event. Seven years ago, the Open ended on a 195-yard 18th hole. That par 3 would be used as the 10th hole for the next Open and lengthened to 215 yards. The hole, over water, also would be reversed, meaning the tee used in 1997 would be the green, and vice versa. The next Open would then finish on 18 at the course's signature 480-yard hole, with water all around and framed from the fairway by the clubhouse. That hole was the 17th in '97.
Booz Allen Classic officials said they too were looking forward to playing next year's tournament at Congressional. TPC at Avenel will undergo a significant renovation next year at the request of the PGA Tour, a major reason for the move. The 2005 Booz Allen will be played a week before the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, and tournament officials said yesterday that they expected the best field in its history.