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.”

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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

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Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''

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Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”