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Bunkers to be more of a factor this year

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BETHESDA, Md. – Bunker play will be more critical in this U.S. Open than the last played at Congressional Country Club in 1997.

That’s because the bunkers are set up to come into play more than they did in ‘97 and to play more difficult with a softer grade of sand.

“The bunkers are interesting,” U.S. Open defending champion Graeme McDowell said. “They're probably the most interesting part of the setup this week. There's a lot of sand in the traps. The balls are plugging quite a lot.”

Also, the grass around the bunkering isn’t so deep anymore, a setup designed to lure more balls into them.

“On roughly half the holes, you’ll notice there are some pretty steep banks, where we’ve shaved those banks,” U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis said. “What we’re doing is allowing gravity to take the ball back into the bunkers.”

Those bunkers will be trickier than what PGA Tour pros are used to playing.

“We really want bunkers to be hazards, and so these bunkers are softer than what these elite players see on a week-to-week basis,” Davis said. “We’re trying to do that . . . when they’re a little softer, they can’t compress the ball against the sand and really spin it as much, so it comes out more knuckly. We’re not looking for a bunch of fried eggs out there.”