Eleven has a fan club, a group of people that sit around the ropes by the green and wait for the hole’s victims. There goes another shot in the bunker. Someone hit it into the creek again. That guy misjudged the putt by inches.
And then there was Gary Woodland’s birdie, and the seated gallery nearly gave him a standing ovation. “That was amazing,” one man said to his friend.
“It’s like stealing one,” Woodland said.
Congressional’s No. 11 is the toughest hole of the course. The 489-yard par-4 ranked fourth in difficulty on the PGA Tour last year, and it was the hardest in a non-major tournament.
It’s been the bane of the Quicken Loans National field’s existence. A narrow creek runs along the right side of the sloping fairway, widening into a murky pool around the right of the green. There are two bunkers to the left of the green.
If you miss the fairway off the tee, a bogey is inevitable. The second shot could go in the creek to the right, or it could go to one of the bunkers, or it could land on the hilly green and you’ll have at least two putts from there. Out of 412 rounds last year, there were only 27 birdies on 11.
Playing it perfectly means two good shots to get to the front edge of the green to the right of the hole, then putting uphill for a par. The hole is a par-5 for club members, but switches to a par-4 for tournaments, making it even more challenging.
“That hole has everything that you can have on a hole to make it tough,” Stewart Cink said. “The green’s a par-5 green, and we’re hitting quite a longer shot in there as a par-4.”
In the lead at seven-under-par when he got to 11, Freddie Jacobson dropped his club when he put his second shot in the creek. He wasn’t in the lead when he left 11, making a double bogey. Charley Hoffman dropped an expletive and slammed his club into the ground after he missed a short birdie putt and settled for par.
Eleven sent Justin Rose toppling down the leader board after he missed the fairway, then landed in a bunker, then got to the fringe, and then two-putted it. He ended his round tied for fifth at three-under-par.
“I tried to advance the ball too far from being out of position,” Rose said. “I hit it into the bunker where you really couldn’t hit it from there, and then I’m making double bogey. My only frustration is not accepting that it’s a tough hole and maybe just playing for five.”
The hole location for Saturday’s third round was counterintuitive, breaking away from the water rather than toward it. After hitting his second shot into the creek, Hunter Mahan almost escaped with a bogey, but his 18-foot putt was inches off the mark.
“It’s one of the hardest holes on Tour,” Mahan said. “After Sunday, you’re glad you don’t have to play it for a year.”