By the 17th hole of the Quicken Loans National on Thursday, Michael Kim had chunks of mud stuck to the soles of his shoes. The Congressional Country Club fairways oozed water with every step. Splotches of mud lined the roughs and pathways, acting as incidental hazards.
The Bethesda course received a soaking Tuesday before early morning storms Thursday delayed the start of the first round by more than two hours.
“It seems that every week we’ve had rain delays,” Jhonattan Vegas said. “We’re almost used to it.”
Vegas — who finished with a 6-under-par 65, good enough for second place among those who had completed the first round — said the waterlogged terrain affected his approach.
“The fairway is a bit softer, and so you can be aggressive,” Vegas said. “The ball doesn’t spin back as much on the green, but we can be aggressive. When this course is firm and fast, we can’t be like that. So we did that from the beginning to end.”
Kyle Reifers, one of seven players in the clubhouse with a 66, said he had a difficult time preparing because of the inclement weather.
“I almost, after seeing the forecast last night, I had to kind of convince myself to get ready to play today, the forecast looked so bad,” Reifers said. “I didn’t really know what the weather was going to bring today. It didn’t look like we were going to get 18 holes in with no rain, so that was a bonus.”
It has been a rough year for veteran Ernie Els. After struggling with a well-publicized case of the yips at the Masters in April, Els has been grinding his way back.
On Thursday, the South African was among a cluster of players at 5-under 66. And it doesn’t hurt that Els is playing the course where he won the U.S Open in 1997.
“You think back, and I’ve got the same caddy I had, Ricky Roberts, back in ’97,” Els said. “Twenty years, it’s great to be back. Winning a major at a special place like Congressional, playing here again, you just keep thinking back on shots.
“Almost every single hole, there’s a moment in ’97 where you can remember,” Els said. “Ricky and I spoke about that today, and it’s nice to draw from.”