Congressional Country Club has hosted two U.S. Opens and is widely considered among the classic courses in this country. Yet, it did not put up much of a challenge yesterday in the first round of the Booz Allen Classic.
Matt Gogel set the course record, an 8-under-par 63, in the morning to take the lead, and 59 of the 154 players were under par when play was suspended. When the U.S. Open was here in 1997, the course was playing as a par 70, and only three players finished below par for the tournament.
The reasons for the low numbers are varied. The course is softer because of the recent rain. The rough is about four inches instead of closer to six as it was when the Open was here.
"It's very soft," said Fredrik Jacobson, who finished three shots off the lead. "It doesn't run a lot over the fairways. It certainly doesn't run a lot on the greens at the moment. Pretty much whatever club you're hitting in, it stops right away. That makes a huge difference compared to the U.S. Open."
Gogel noted that the pin placement wasn't nearly as tricky as it could have been.
"They set up the pins fair because we haven't been here since" 1986 as a PGA Tour stop, Gogel said. "The U.S. Open is a whole different animal. I think they're just trying to figure out [how to set up the course]. They didn't want us to come out and everybody shoot over par. I think they were fairly generous to see what we could do on the golf course."
Congressional, which is playing at 7,232 yards this week, was the longest course in U.S. Open history eight years ago, but advances in club and ball designs have rendered many traditional layouts much more vulnerable.
"Technology has just moved on so dramatically in the last eight years," said Lee Westwood, who is tied for second place with Jacobson and Brett Wetterich. "I mean it was starting to kick in in '97, but nowhere near the rate is has from '99 to 2002. It's made a lot of courses play shorter. I mean on 17, I remember having to hit 4-iron in there in the U.S. Open. In [Wednesday's] pro-am, I hit driver-wedge."
But Westwood pointed out that, regardless of technology, good scores don't come easy.
"The golf course stands up under today's test because of the way it's been designed," he said. "It's a fantastically well-designed golf course."
Driscoll's Good Showings
James Driscoll, a Virginia all-American, earned his PGA Tour card last year by finishing seventh on the Nationwide Tour money list. In his rookie year on the tour, Driscoll has made six cuts out of 14 events. His most impressive finish came last month at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The 27-year-old was in Sunday's final group and forced a playoff, but lost on the first extra hole to finish second. His first top 10 finish earned him $594,000.
In the Booz Allen Classic first round, Driscoll made four birdies and three bogeys for a 1-under par 70. He is currently tied for 42nd place.
Funk's Uneven Round
It wasn't one of Fred Funk's better showings at this tournament. Funk, the former Maryland golf coach, shot a 2-over par 73 in the first round, which tied him for 99th place. He had two birdies, two bogeys and a three-putt double-bogey on No. 3. . . .
Pat Perez withdrew after shooting a 74 in the first round. Andre Stolz left the course because of an injury after nine holes and also withdrew. . . .
When the horn blew at 5:45 p.m. signaling lightning in the area, it was the sixth consecutive year this tournament has been delayed by weather. It was also the 11th of 24 PGA Tour events this year to be delayed by weather.