When one talks about the history of a golf course, all you have to do is look at what championships have been staged at the venue to know where it ranks among the greats. That certainly is the case with Congressional Country Club's Blue Course.
From the U.S. and Senior Opens and PGA Championship, along with PGA Tour stops, Congressional is as storied a venue as it gets. The list of past winners at Congressional reads like a who's who, with such notable victors as: Gay Brewer, Ken Venturi, Dave Stockton, Craig Stadler, Fred Couples, Greg Norman, Tom Weiskopf and Ernie Els.
Founded in 1924, Congressional was first laid out by Devereaux Emmet, who also crafted some notable venues; St. Georges Golf and Country Club, Garden City Golf Club, Leatherstocking Country Club and Meadow Brook Club. With most of his work done in the state of New York, Emmet's work at Congressional, nine holes each of the Blue and Gold, was his only design in the state of Maryland. Six years later, the one and only Donald Ross was brought in for a revision of the course. Congressional Country Club was the centerpiece for one of the world's most famous regions, Washington D.C.
Congressmen Oscar E. Bland and O.R. Luhring of Indiana helped found the venue with Herbert Hoover as the Club's first president. Their intention was a club designed for members of Congress to socialize with the most influential businessmen of our time. The list included such luminaries as John D. Rockefeller, the DuPonts, William Randolph Hurst, Harvey S. Firestone and Walter Chrysler to name a few.
Congressional is synonymous with the Presidents of the United States. Former Commanders-in-Chief who were lifetime members were Calvin Coolidge, Howard Taft, Hoover, Woodrow Wilson and Warren Harding. President Dwight Eisenhower and his Cabinet frequented the lush fairways on many occasions, as did recent leaders George Bush and Bill Clinton.
Robert Trent Jones, Sr. was brought to Congressional in 1959 to redesign the course in time for the U.S. Women's Amateur and the 1964 U.S. Open, while his son Rees, who took over as the 'Open Doctor' from his father, came aboard in the early 1990s for the last major renovation work for the 1995 U.S. Senior Open and the 1997 U.S. Open. Jones rebuilt every green and bunker, re-graded many fairways and added considerable mounding.
He returned to Congressional in 2006 to design a new par three to replace the original 18th, which played back to the clubhouse. The new hole is now the 10th and plays away from the main building, stretching as much as 218 yards. 'I think what they've done to this golf course is they have made it better,' commented Tiger Woods. 'They have made it more fair, but they have also made it more challenging.'
In just the second year of the tournament, the USGA brought the U.S. Junior Amateur to Congressional, as former Masters champion Brewer defeated Mason Rudolph, 6 & 4 in the championship match. The 1959 U.S. Women's Amateur saw Barbara McIntire capture the first of her two championships, as she defeated Joanne Goodwin, 4 & 3.
The best was yet to come, as the 1964 U.S. Open was awarded to Congressional. With temperatures approaching 100, Tommy Jacobs played the first two days in four-under par and led Arnold Palmer by one with Sunday's final 36 holes remaining. Six shots back was Venturi, who after losing to Palmer at the 1960 Masters, suffered through numerous injuries and by 1964 was hardly noticed.
That would all change on Sunday. Despite the heat and humidity, Venturi opened with a front- nine 30 to take the lead. After adding another birdie on 12, the weather conditions began to take its toll on Venturi, as he missed a pair of short par putts on the final two holes of the third round for a 66. Jacobs fashioned an even-par 70 to lead by two heading into the afternoon's final round. Visibly drained, Venturi was given salt tablets and tea and was advised by a doctor, a Congressional member, to withdraw from the event. The former CBS commentator played steady golf, making 14 pars, two birdies and two bogeys for a final score of 70, a 278 total and a four-stroke win over Jacobs, who collapsed down the stretch with a 76.
Venturi's final 54-hole total of 206 set a record at the time and his last 36 of 136 tied the record. In the press room afterwards, Venturi was asked what he thought of Congressional and without hesitation, 'Best course I ever won the Open on.' Interestingly enough, due to additional television revenues and the enormous physical circumstances Venturi withstood, the USGA opted in 1965 to play the Open over four days, ending the final day marathon that the last day of the Open had become. Palmer, who played in the final group with Jacobs, shot 74 and tied for fifth. Venturi would later add two more wins in 1964 and was voted PGA Tour player of the year.
The PGA of America made its only stop at Congressional in 1976 for the PGA Championship. Tom Weiskopf opened with a tournament-low 65 to take the lead, but could not continue his fine play, closing with 74-73-72 to tie for eighth. Trailing by eight shots at the halfway point, Dave Stockton roared into contention with a 69 to trail Charles Coody by only four.
With the final round being played on Monday for the first time in history due to rain, Stockton shot an even-par round of 70 for a one-shot win over Ray Floyd, who played with Venturi for those final 36 holes during the 1964 Open, and Don January.
Standing on the final tee (17th hole was the final hole for the PGA, 1964 Open and 1995 Senior Open), Stockton needed to make par to avoid a playoff. The 14-time Champions Tour and 10-time PGA Tour winner calmly knocked in his 15-foot putt for par for his second PGA Championship title. Stockton's total of one-over 281 matched the highest winning total at the time. Congressional certainly came out on top, as the four-day average was 74.44 and the halfway cut came in at nine-over par.
The PGA Tour's regular stop in the area, the Kemper Open, made Congressional its home, as the course hosted the event from 1980-86. Playing as a par 72, Craig Stadler became the first back-to-back winner of the event, as he titled in 1981-82 after finishing second to John Mahaffey in 1980.
Fred Couples won a five-way playoff in 1983 for his first career PGA Tour title. Norman won his first Tour title in 1984, as he cruised to a five-shot win over Mark O'Meara at Congressional. Norman added his second Kemper Open title in 1986, when he knocked off Larry Mize in a playoff. Mize, of course, would return the favor the next year at The Masters.
The USGA returned to Congressional in 1995 for the Senior Open. Perennial runner-up Tom Weiskopf, who never won a USGA event before, became only the second Senior Open winner to post all four rounds in the 60s, as he defeated longtime rival Jack Nicklaus by four shots. Weiskopf, who finished second at the 1976 U.S. Open and was runner-up at four Masters, missed only 16 greens all week and his final round of 68 ranks as one of the best final rounds by a champion in the history of the Senior Open.
It took 33 years, but the U.S. Open returned to Congressional for the 1997 edition. Colin Montgomerie opened with 65 and held a one-shot lead over Hal Sutton, as he hit 13 of 14 fairways and 16 greens in regulation. Monty would struggle in day two, shooting 76 while Tom Lehman carded 70 to take the lead, just one clear of 1994 champion Ernie Els, who fashioned a 67.
Day three was a mixed bag, as 21 players were forced to complete their third round on Sunday, including Els, who at the time was struggling at two-over par through 13. Els came out of the box smoking, as he rolled in a 12-foot par save on 14 and then birdied holes 15 through 17 for a 69. Lehman, who was playing in the final group for the third consecutive year, led Els and Jeff Maggert by two.
Despite a shaky start, Lehman was tied for the lead with Maggert after six holes, with Els and Montgomerie just one back. Playing holes 7-12 in three-under, Els took a one-shot lead over the trio, but fell back into a tie with a bogey at 13. Maggert fell out of contention with bogeys on 13 and 16 and a double on 17.
Montgomerie was the next player to fall back. After making bogey on 17 the three previous days, Montgomerie was faced with a five-foot putt for par. He waited several minutes for the group of Jay Haas and Tommy Tolles to putt out on the nearby 18th green, and Montgomerie missed his putt and then two-putted from 40-feet on the last for a 69 and a second-place finish. After a solid tee shot on 17, Els, playing with Montgomerie, hit his five-iron approach on the green and two-putted for par and then made par on the last for a 69.
Sitting in the fairway at the 17th hole, Lehman decided to hit seven-iron from 190 yards out, as he trailed by one. After striking his shot, Lehman knew his chances were sunk as he splashed his approach into the water. Despite getting up and down for bogey, Lehman could only par the last for a 73 and a third-place finish.
The win by Els made him the first non-American to capture two U.S. Open titles since 1910 and the youngest two-time champion at the age of 27 since Jack Nicklaus in 1967. The key to victory was the South African's play over the final five holes, as he played them the last two days at three-under par. Lehman played them at even- par, Montgomerie at one-over and Maggert five-over.
Nicklaus, who tied for 52nd, played in his 41st consecutive Open, 142nd straight major and his 150th major championship. The 10th hole during the third round also marked his 10,000th hole played in his major championship career. At 7,213 yards, Congressional was the longest course in U.S. Open history at the time and was 160 yards longer than the 1964 Open.
The field also included Tiger Woods, who was competing at the U.S. Open for the first time as a professional. Woods broke 72 only once (second round 67) and finished tied for 19th. Congressional once again was the winner, as the average score for the week was 73.65 with 403 rounds over par.
After hosting the Booz Allen Classic in 2005, won by Spaniard Sergio Garcia, Congressional became the site of the PGA Tour's newest event, the AT&T National, hosted by Tiger Woods.
The first staging of the event was in 2007, as K.J. Choi held off the tournament host and the Tour's best, as he recorded a three-shot win over Steve Stricker. Choi opened with 66 and was tied for the lead with four other players. A second-round 67 moved Choi atop the leaderboard with Stuart Appleby. The talented Australian moved in front with his third straight round in the 60s to lead Choi by two shots. Appleby struggled right from the start on the final day, with a double-bogey on two and four straight bogeys from the fourth to fall out of contention.
Tied with Choi after 14 holes, Stricker bogeyed the 15th, while Choi, playing in the final group, birdied from 12 feet to take a two-shot lead. Stricker had birdie chances on the final two holes, but missed and after a Choi hole out from the bunker on 17 for birdie, the tournament was his. After an opening round of 73, Woods rebounded with 66-69-70 to tie for sixth.
Aces, pars or bogeys, email your thoughts to Phil Sokol.
History of Congressional CC
Golf Channel, Loch Lomond Partner on Claret Jug Tour Ahead of 147TH Open
Award-Winning Independent Scotcb Whisky Sponsoring Tour to Select U.S. Cities; Will Include Special Tastings and Opportunities for Fans to Engage with Golf’s Most Storied Trophy
Golf Channel and Loch Lomond Group are partnering on a promotional tour with the Claret Jug – golf’s most iconic trophy, first awarded in 1873 to the winner of The Open – to select U.S. cities in advance of the 147TH Open at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland. Loch Lomond Whisky’s sponsorship of the tour further enhances the brand’s existing five-year partnership with the R&A as the official spirit of The Open, initially announced in February.
“We are proud to partner with Golf Channel to support this tour of golf’s most iconic trophy,” said Colin Matthews, CEO of Loch Lomond Group. “Whisky and golf are two of Scotland’s greatest gifts to the world, and following the news of our recent partnership with the R&A for The Open, being a part of the Claret Jug tour was a perfect fit for Loch Lomond Group to further showcase our commitment to the game.”
“The Loch Lomond Group could not be a more natural fit to sponsor the Claret Jug tour,” said Tom Knapp, senior vice president of golf sponsorship, NBC Sports Group. “Much like the storied history that accompanies the Claret Jug, Loch Lomond’s Scottish roots trace back centuries ago, and their aspirations to align with golf’s most celebrated traditions will resonate with a broad range of consumers in addition to golf fans and whisky enthusiasts.”
The tour kicks off today in Austin, Texas, and will culminate on Wednesday, July 11 at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe one week prior to The Open. Those wishing to engage with the Claret Jug will have an opportunity at one of several tour stops being staged at Topgolf locations in select cities. The tour will feature a custom, authentic Scottish pub where consumers (of age) can sample Loch Lomond’s portfolio of whiskies in the spirit of golf’s original championship and the Claret Jug. The Claret Jug also will make special pop-up visits to select GolfNow course partners located within some of the designated tour markets.
(All Times Local)
Monday, June 18 Austin, Texas (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m.)
Tuesday, June 19 Houston (Topgolf, 5-8 p.m.)
Wednesday, June 20 Jacksonville, Fla. (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)
Monday, June 25 Orlando, Fla. (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)
Wednesday, July 4 Washington D.C. (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m. – Ashburn, Va.)
Monday, July 9 Edison, N.J. (Topgolf, Time TBA)
Wednesday, July 11 Lake Tahoe, Nev. American Century Championship (On Course)
Fans interacting with the Claret Jug and Loch Lomond during the course of the tour are encouraged to share their experience using the hashtag, #ClaretJug on social media, and tag @TheOpen and @LochLomondMalts on Twitter and Instagram.
NBC Sports Group is the exclusive U.S. television home of the 147TH Open from Carnoustie, with nearly 50 live hours of tournament coverage, Thursday-Sunday, July 19-22. The Claret Jug is presented each July to the winner of The Open, with the winner also being given the title of “Champion Golfer of the Year” until the following year’s event is staged. The Claret Jug is one of the most storied trophies in all of sports; first presented to the 1873 winner of The Open, Tom Kidd. Each year, the winner’s name is engraved on to the trophy, forever etched into the history of golf’s original championship. It is customary for the Champion Golfer of the Year to drink a favorite alcoholic beverage from the Claret Jug in celebration of the victory.
USGA-player relationship at a breaking point?
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – For seven days each year, the American game’s preeminent governing body welcomes the best players in the world with open arms. They set up shop at one of the premier courses in the country, and line it with grandstands and white hospitality tents as far as the eye can see.
The players arrive, first at a slow trickle and then at a steady pace. And once they’ve registered and clipped their player medallions over their belts, they’re told how this year is going to be different.
How this time around, be it in a Washington gravel pit or on a time-tested piece of land on the tip of Long Island, the USGA will not repeat the mistakes of the past. That the process of identifying the best players in the world will not veer into the territory of embarrassing them.
Like a college sweetheart in search of reconciliation, the powers-that-be preach a changed attitude and a more even-handed approach. Then, inevitably, they commit the same cardinal sins they promised to avoid.
So year in and year out, the scar tissue builds. Charlie Brown keeps trying to kick the football and, for most of the players not named Brooks Koepka, he ends up on his butt in a cloud of dust and fescue.
Apparently the Blue Bloods of the @USGA do. I refuse to watch it because I know what the outcome will be. Mike Davis and his crew could ruin Christmas. #amateurhacks #giveusourgameback https://t.co/n3GgOJl02C— William McGirt (@WilliamMcGirt) June 16, 2018
After letting Shinnecock Hills plunge into avoidable yet all-too-familiar territory over the weekend – before being doused back to life – one thing is clear: in the eyes of many players, the USGA can’t be trusted.
“When are they going to get it right? I just feel like they disrespect these historic golf courses,” said Scott Piercy, a runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Open who got swept away this week during a crispy third round en route to a T-45 finish. “I think they disrespect the players, I think they disrespect the game of golf. And they’re supposed to be, like, the top body in the game of golf. And they disrespect it, every aspect of it.”
Piercy, like several players in this week’s field, had a few specific gripes about how Shinnecock was set up, especially during the third round when USGA CEO Mike Davis admitted his organization lost control in a display that echoed the mistakes of 2004. But this was not an isolated case.
Players went with skepticism to Chambers Bay three years ago, only to encounter greens that were largely dirt and got compared to produce. Mismatched grass strains, they were told. Whoops.
The next year the USGA threw a dark cloud over a classic venue by allowing much of the final round at Oakmont to play without knowing the leader’s actual score as a rules fiasco reached a furious boil. Last year’s Erin Hills experiment was met with malaise.
At this point, the schism runs much deeper than a single error in setup. It threatens the core competency of the organization in the eyes of several of the players it looks to serve.
“They do what they want, and they don’t do it very well. As far as I’m concerned, there is no relationship (between players and the USGA),” said Marc Leishman. “They try and do it. They do it on purpose. They say they want to test us mentally, and they do that by doing dumb stuff.”
Thanks guys did Bozo set the course up or are the @USGA going to accept responsibility or just say “IF WE HAD A MULLIGAN” I would have liked about 6 mulligans today. But they are not allowed at this level. “Apparently” pic.twitter.com/O08vOpNlTx— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) June 17, 2018
By and large, players who took issue with the USGA’s tactics had a simple solution: put more of the setup choices in the hands of those who oversee PGA Tour and European Tour venues on a regular basis. While some of those personnel already moonlight in USGA sweater-vests for the week, there is a strong sentiment that their collective knowledge could be more heavily relied upon.
“I know (the USGA) takes great pride in doing all this stuff they do to these golf courses, but they see it once a year,” Brandt Snedeker said. “Let those guys say, ‘Hey, we see this every week. We know what the edge is. We know where it is.’ We can’t be out there playing silly golf.”
That’s not to say that a major should masquerade as the Travelers Championship. But the U.S. Open is the only one of the four that struggles to keep setup shortfalls from becoming a dominant storyline.
It all adds up to a largely adversarial relationship, one that continues to fray after this weekend’s dramatics and which isn’t helped by the USGA’s insistence that they should rarely shoulder the blame.
“They’re not going to listen, for one. Mike Davis thinks he’s got all the answers, that’s No. 2,” said Pat Perez after a T-36 finish. “And when he is wrong, there’s no apologies. It’s just, ‘Yeah, you know, we kind of let it get out of hand.’ Well, no kidding. Look at the scores. That’s the problem. It’s so preventable. You don’t have to let it get to that point.”
As a player and a golf fan myself, it’s sad to see how one of our biggest tournaments @usopengolf gets ripped apart because the @USGA can’t figure out the right set up for the great golf courses we play!!— Sergio Garcia (@TheSergioGarcia) June 17, 2018
But this wound festers from more than just slick greens and thick rough. There is a perception among some players that the USGA gets overly zealous in crafting complicated rules with complex decisions, a collection of amateur golfers doling out the fine print that lords over the professional game on a weekly basis – with the curious handling of whatever Phil Mickelson did on the 13th green Saturday serving as just the latest example.
The gripes over setup each year at the USGA’s biggest event, when it’s perceived that same group swoops in to take the reins for a single week before heading for the hills, simply serve as icing on the cake. And there was plenty of icing this week after players were implored to trust that the miscues of 2004 would not be repeated.
“To say that the players and the USGA have had a close relationship would be a false statement,” Snedeker said. “They keep saying all the right things, and they’re trying to do all the right things, I think. But it’s just not coming through when it matters.”
It’s worth noting that the USGA has made efforts recently to ramp up its communication with the top pros. Officials from the organization have regularly attended the Tour’s player meetings in recent months, and Snedeker believes that some strides have been made.
So, too, does Zach Johnson, who was one of the first to come out after the third round and declare that the USGA had once again lost the golf course.
“I think they’ve really started to over the last few years, last couple years in particular, tried to increase veins of communication,” Johnson said. “When you’re talking about a week that is held in the highest regards, I’m assuming within the organization and certainly within my peer group as one of the four majors and my nation’s major, communication is paramount.”
I wish the @USGA would realize that this course really is special. But it was never designed to have greens at 15 on the stemp. You look like you’re trying to embarrass the best players in the world!— Colt Knost (@ColtKnost) June 17, 2018
But the exact size of the credibility gap the USGA has to bridge with some top pros remains unclear. It’s likely not a sting that one good week of tournament setup can assuage, even going to one of the more straightforward options in the rotation next year at Pebble Beach.
After all, Snedeker was quick to recall that players struggled mightily to hit the par-3 17th green back in 2010, with eventual champ Graeme McDowell calling the hole “borderline unfair” ahead of the third round.
“It’s one of the greatest holes in world golf, but I don’t really know how I can hit the back left portion of the green,” McDowell said at the time. “It’s nearly impossible.”
Surely this time next year, Davis will explain how the USGA has expanded its arsenal in the last decade, and that subsequent changes to the 17th green structure will make it more playable. His organization will then push the course to the brink, like a climber who insists on scaling Mount Everest without oxygen, and they’ll tell 156 players that this time, finally, the desired balance between difficult and fair has been achieved.
Whether they’ll be believed remains to be seen.
Bubba gets inked by Brooks, meets Tebow
Bubba Watson missed the cut at Shinnecock Hills following rounds of 77-74, but that didn't stop him from enjoying his weekend.
Watson played alongside Jason Day and eventual champion Brooks Koepka in Rounds 1 and 2, and somehow this body ink slipped by us on Thursday.
And while we're sure Bubba would have rather been in contention over the weekend, we're also sure that taking your son to meet the second most famous minor-league baseball player who ever lived was a lot more fun than getting your teeth kicked in by Shinnecock Hills over the weekend, as just about everyone not named Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood did.
Already in Hartford, Watson will be going for his third Travelers Championship trophy this week, following wins in 2010 and 2015.
Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it
There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.
There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.
Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.
The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."
Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:
If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.
“The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”
The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.
Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).
We followed our defending champion Toto Gana during his registration! He even did his Donald Duck impression!— LAAC (@LAAC_Golf) January 17, 2018
Acompañamos a Toto Gana, defensor del título, durante todo el proceso de acreditación. ¡Incluso imitó a Donald Duck!#LAAC2018 pic.twitter.com/NGh7hS4cCz