“They say a dry ball is a happy ball … until you hit it over this green,” said Lyberger, looking up at the hole from one of the Rear Sand Pits.
Then the player will move on to 11, which is only the most difficult hole of the bunch. It’s almost cruelly long — a 494-yard par 4 — and has a skinny, scary green protected by a pond. As if this weren’t enough, the fairway has been nudged over to the right, closer to a stream that runs down the side. On top of that, two bunkers that used to catch drives (and keep them from getting wet) have been eliminated. So now, if a tee ball drifts right, it’s much more likely to wind up in the drink (especially since, as a bonus, the fairway tilts sharply in that direction).
Oh, and have I mentioned that 18, Congressional’s signature hole — with the clubhouse in the background and the peninsula green that doused Tom Lehman’s chances in ‘97 — has been stretched 50 yards to 523? Try making a par 4 there with a one-shot lead, the championship at stake and your knees clattering like castanets.
Yup, this Open course has it all - everything but a greenskeeper named Igor. The USGA has taken a tough, classic course and, in its diabolical way, made it even tougher. The sign at the entrance says, “Congressional Country Club,” but maybe, for the week in question, it should say, “I’d turn back if I were you.”
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Dan Daly has been writing about sports for the Washington Times since 1982. He has won numerous national and local awards, appears regularly in NFL Films’ historical features and is the co-author of “The Pro Football Chronicle,” a decade-by-decade history of the game. Follow Dan on Twitter at @dandalyonsports –- or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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