Historic Congressional is capital site for U.S. Open

By Associated PressJune 10, 2011, 6:25 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – It doesn’t take much of a detective to work out the origins of a place with a name like Congressional Country Club. Nor is it hard to realize what it has become today – a prestigious, must-play destination for the world’s top golfers, who will reconvene at the splendid but often unforgiving Blue Course for next week’s U.S. Open.

In between, however, the 580 dazzling acres near the U.S. capital have a vibrant history that hasn’t always gone according to script. The bunkers – not the kind made of sand – are left over from the 1940s, when the club was leased to the Office of Strategic Services as a World War II training ground. Fairways became target ranges and craters marred the course.

It’s easy to say the club was doing its bit of sacrifice in the name of noble service for its country, but actually the country was saving the club. The OSS – predecessor to the CIA – paid $4,000 per month to rent the place.

“Having gone through the Depression years of the ’30s, the club was in serious financial trouble at that time,” Brundred said, “and was probably on the verge of perhaps having to shut the doors, when the opportunity to lease the property to the OSS came along. It was being able to shut the doors and not have any expenses during those years and to put some money in the bank that allowed the club to sort of regroup.”

Money woes didn’t seem possible when Congressional was founded during the Roaring ’20s, the brainchild of two Indiana congressman who envisioned an idyllic setting for politicians and businessmen to recharge their psychological batteries while contemplating the world’s problems. Oscar Bland and O.R. Lubring wanted a place “where talk has no fetters and where exchanged opinion leads to clarity,” according to a 1921 prospectus.

“The official or member of Congress, brain cleared by the bracing air, and exhilarated by the play in which he is engaged, finds a new and more adequate conception of his problems of government; and from his contact with minds that know the nation’s needs, develops more surely the solutions essential for America’s well being,” the prospectus continued.

Five former American presidents – Herbert Hoover, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge – are listed as founding life members. The opening gala in 1924 at the stylish clubhouse with its Mediterranean-style architecture was a grand occasion, but for many years Congressional was too lavish for its budget, particularly during the lean years before the war. Its remote location and lack of local dues-paying members posed problems.

Back on firm footing after the war, Congressional became less of a course for men in power and more of a conventional, exclusive country club for members and their families.

It was also during the postwar era that Congressional realized it could become a place of champions. Renowned designer Robert Trent Jones was hired to overhaul the back nine of the Blue Course in the 1950s and later did the same to the front nine, a much-needed update to Devereux Emmet’s original setup from the 1920s. Jones’ son, Rees Jones, was called on to do another renovation in the late 1980s.

“When I was on the board and we were getting ready to redo the Blue Course,” said Enos Fry, another former club president, “I can remember some of the past presidents coming up to me saying, ‘You’re going to ruin this place. You’re going to change this course, and you young guys should just never do anything like this.’ And it was amazing after we got finished doing it, a couple of them came up to me and said, ‘I’m glad we decided to do this.”’

The Blue Course’s list of blue-chip events is impressive: the 1959 Women’s Amateur, the 1976 PGA Championship, the 1995 U.S. Senior Open, and, of course, the U.S. Open in 1964 and 1997.

Fry worked at the 1964 Open, selling scrip coupons that spectators used to buy refreshments, and he got to witness Ken Venturi walking the down the fairway at No. 18. Exhausted and at times disoriented by the notoriously stifling mid-Atlantic heat and humidity, Venturi persevered through 36 holes on the final day to claim the championship in one of the most extraordinary performances the sport has seen.

But Congressional always had one nagging feature that caused a stir every time the big names came calling. Robert Trent Jones’ redesign in the 1950s left the Blue Course with a par-3 finish, a scenic hole with a tee shot over a lake with the full expanse of the clubhouse in the background.

The members didn’t mind, but it wasn’t deemed fitting for a major event. Officials had to find ways around it. When Venturi won, the Blue Course borrowed two holes from the Gold Course so the tournament would end on the members’ 17th hole, a classic and difficult par-4 finishing hole that leads downhill onto a peninsula by the lake. At the 1995 Senior Open, No. 18 became No. 10, creating a long and awkward walk from greens to tees at the start of the back nine.

In 1997, the U.S. Golf Association decided to give the par 3 finish a chance. The Open was played the members’ way, and it proved a lackluster means for ending a major. The make-or-break shots everyone remembers – particularly Tom Lehman’s fateful 7-iron approach that bounded into the lake – happened at No. 17. The 18th hole was anticlimactic as Ernie Els took home the trophy.

“While the tournament was a great success,” Brundred said, “in the years immediately following as we began to lobby the USGA to return the U.S. Open to Congressional, they kind of let us know that they would very much like to return, but they didn’t want to finish again on a par 3.”

So another facelift was in order. The par-3 hole has been reversed, with the tee and green swapping sides of the lake. It’s now the 10th hole for everyone, members included, and fits naturally into the flow of the course. Next week, the golfers will finish on the same hole as Venturi did all those years ago.

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Fisher becomes first in Euro Tour history to shoot 59

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 21, 2018, 11:29 am

There’s never been a sub-60 score on the European Tour, and Oliver Fisher almost went two strokes better Friday at the Portugal Masters.

Fisher’s 40-footer on the final green burned the edge, but he tapped in the short par putt to record the first 59 in tour history.   

“It feels great,” he said after getting sprayed with champagne. “It was in the back of my mind all day.”

It didn’t look like it.

The 287th-ranked player in the world, Fisher made 10 birdies, an eagle and seven pars during his magical round.

All of the other major pro tours have produced a 59 – nine times on the PGA Tour; once on the LPGA – but this was the first time that a player on the European Tour broke the sub-60 barrier. (There have been 19 rounds of 60.) Earlier this year, at the Scottish Open, Brandon Stone narrowly missed an 8-footer on the final green during the final round. This tournament has produced a few chances, as well, with both Scott Jamieson and Nicolas Colsaerts coming up just short over the past few years.

Fisher went out in 28 at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, then made three birdies in a row to start the back nine. He tacked on another birdie on 15 to give himself a shot at history, then played the closing stretch in 1 under. On 16, he needed a 20-footer for par after leaving his tee shot well short of the flag. He two-putted for birdie on 17 and then coolly made par on the last, after his birdie try from 40 feet just missed on the left edge.

Two years ago, he arrived in Portugal needed a good result just to keep his card. He shot a final-round 64. 

On Friday, he made tour history.

“I kept that in the back of my mind, thinking things could be worse,” he said. 

To this point, Fisher had a forgettable season. Ranked 72nd in the Race to Dubai, he didn’t have a top-10 in a stroke-play event since late February. His last four results: MC-T71-MC-MC. He opened the Portugal Masters with a 71 and was in danger of missing the cut.

Now, improbably, he’s in position to score his second European Tour title, after capturing the 2011 Czech Open.

“I tried to enjoy it,” he said. “It’s not often that we get a chance to shoot a really low one.”

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Paisley (61) leads Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship.

The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.

''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''

The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.

Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship

''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''

Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.

''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''

Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Web.com Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162

The series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

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“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

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Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”