Familiar course with a new look for the U.S. Open

By Doug FergusonJune 14, 2011, 12:42 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – Three players in the 156-man field at the U.S. Open have won at Congressional. Only one of them knows what it takes to win a U.S. Open. That would be Ernie Els, who captured his second U.S. Open title in 1997 at Congressional.

When the AT&T National came to Congressional in 2007, K.J. Choi won over Steve Stricker. A year later, Anthony Kim closed with a 65 for a two-shot win over Fredrik Jacobson. Tiger Woods had rounds of 64-66-70-67 when he won in 2009. He won’t get another crack at Congressional this week because he is not playing due to left leg injuries.

“The course definitely plays different than when I won in 2007,” Choi said on Monday, the first full day of practice for the Open. “The tee shot … when you’re standing on the tee box, the holes played different. You have to attack differently. They’ve pulled it back 20, 30 yards on some of the holes, so you actually have to draw your shots, where in 2007, I could fade my shots.”

Even so, the experience of winning has helped Choi feel like he knows his way around. He knows where he can miss, and where the big numbers are waiting if he misses in the wrong spot.

“I think the key point is whether you’re able to hit your second shots and stop it on the green, stick it to the green, stick it to the pin within 4 or 5 yards,” Choi said. “Once you’re able to do that, I think you have a better advantage.”

Early reviews on Congressional are favorable as a a stern but fair test, but the greens are not quite as firm as they tend to be when the competition gets under way on Thursday.

Among the favorites this week – because of the major, not the location – is Lee Westwood of England, who is No. 2 in the world and getting closer than ever to winning his first major.

Westwood had a putt to get into the playoff at Torrey Pines in 2008 U.S. Open. He had a par putt to get into a playoff at Turnberry a year later, and he had the 54-hole lead in The Masters last year.

“I think if you’re a good player, you’re going to have disappointments because you’re going to be in contention a lot, aren’t you?” Westwood said. “You’re going to have lots of chances to win major championships.”

It wasn’t always that way for Westwood.

Even though he rose to No. 4 in the world earlier in his career, it took him until a few years ago to start getting seriously close. His first U.S. Open happened to be in 1997 at Congressional.

“My first impressions were it was a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be,” Westwood said. “The toughness of a U.S. Open setup takes you by surprise when you’ve never played it before. And I really don’t remember a lot from ’97, other than it was quite wet. There wasn’t a lot of run of the fairways, and it played quite long.

“I did all right,” he said. “I finished 19th, so I was quite pleased with that. First effort at a U.S. Open.”

Perhaps it should be no surprise that a first-time player has not won the U.S. Open in 98 years, dating to Francis Ouimet across the street from his house in Brookline in 1913.

The other majors have had debutants win in the last three decades – Ben Curtis at the British Open (2003), John Daly at the U.S. PGA Championship (1991), Fuzzy Zoeller at the Masters (1979).

For the players who haven’t been back in 14 years – Els, Westwood among them – there are a few big changes. The par-3 18th has been switched to a different direction and now is No. 10. Considering it’s a two-tee start in the opening two rounds, it will be the third course in the last 10 years when players start a round on a par 3. The others were Royal Lytham & St. Annes and Winged Foot.

The closing hole – the old No. 17 from 1997 – is now a 523-yard par 4 into a green surrounded by water.

By the end of the week, par might be a good score. By the look of it early in the week, however, some players feel as though they at least have a fighting chance.

“There’s no tricks to this golf course,” Westwood said. “You could almost turn up Thursday and just play it because it’s such a good, honest test.”

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.