New math: Congressional to play as a par 71

By Associated PressJune 15, 2011, 9:25 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – Along the woods that line the far edge of the front nine at Congressional Country Club, the U.S. Open is giving up a stroke.

Begrudgingly, mind you.

The Blue Course’s No. 6, which played as a par 4 in the two previous U.S. Opens at Congressional, will be a par 5 when the tournament begins Thursday morning, the miserly U.S. Golf Association having decided it going too far against the grain by making the hole into something it was never meant to be.

“It’s a great change by the USGA,” said Ernie Els, who had reason to like the old setup, having won the U.S. Open on the Blue Course in 1997. “There’s enough really tough holes out here at Congressional. That green was built for a par 5, and we’ve had this debate in Europe a couple of weeks ago about holes and greens that are built for 5s and then you change it to a 4, it just doesn’t quite mesh with the design. I’m glad they did that.”

Congressional’s members have always played No. 6 as a tricky, risk-reward par 5. A pond hugs the front and right side of the green, making a layup the better play for golfers lacking any confidence whatsoever in their approach game.

For the pros, however, it was one of those tweeners – two easy if it’s a 5 and too hard if it’s a 4. The average score on No. 6 in 1997 was 4.533 – the half-shot over par earning the dubious ranking as the toughest hole on the course.

But the USGA didn’t just leave it alone and call it a 5; they did some tinkering. There’s a new tee box about 40 yards further back and to the left, putting the hole at 555 yards. The fairways have been pinched. Practice round drives this week have often landed in the thick left rough, negating any chance of making the green in two.

“It is a wonderful par 5 that really has a lot of decision-making involved,” Phil Mickelson said. “And I think it’s such a great thing that they went back to it as a par 5 rather than making it another brutal par 4 like there are so many out here. It just makes it more fun and more interesting. That’s a spot where you’ve got to really decide, ‘Is this where I really want to attack it?’ Because you’re going to see some eagles on that hole.”

And some adventures. During Wednesday’s practice rounds, players were dropping balls on various points along the fairway, trying both the layup and long approach to the green.

Michael Smith, who made the tournament through local and sectional qualifying, had the worst of both worlds: His drive landed in the left rough, so he dropped a ball on the fairway to try to reach the green in two – and promptly plopped his shot into the pond.

“It’s kind of out of character with the rest of the golf course,” said defending champion Graeme McDowell, who also found the left rough off the tee in a practice round this week. “It doesn’t feel like it fits the golf course. I can’t imagine it as a par 4. It’s a pretty good 5. It’s an exciting 5. Kind of a blind tee shot. You’ve really got to make sure you pick your spot off the tee. … It’s definitely going to be dramatic.”

The extra stroke – which means par will be 71 instead of 70 – helps compensate for the lack of a drivable par 4 on the Blue Course. And, just to make things more interesting at No. 6, the USGA won’t be using that new back tee every day during the tournament.

“I have a hunch you might see the tee moved up sometime during the championship to further entice the players to go for that green,” said Tom O’Toole, chairman of the USGA’s championship committee. “The danger, of course, is the pond. A well-executed shot will make it to that putting green. A poorly executed shot will not.”

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.