A year later, Congressional gets a US Open course

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McIlroy beat both those marks by four.

In some respects, Woods can consider himself the defending champion. The last time the AT&T National was played at Congressional was in 2009, when he closed with a 67 to finish on 13-under 267 for a one-shot win.

But this isn’t the same course.

It was played as a par 70 in 2009, with the sixth hole a long par 4. Now, the course is playing the same length as the U.S. Open, a par 71 at 7,569 yards, using some of the new tees the USGA had built for its premier championship.

That includes the 466-yard third hole, the 470-yard fourth hole, and a 523-yard hole on the 18th.

“I like it quick because it certainly puts a premium on shaping shots, and more than anything, keeping the ball under the hole,” Woods said. “We’ve seen what this place can do when it gets soft, and what the guys can shoot.”

Whether it stays fast when the AT&T National gets under way on Thursday remains to be seen. No rain was in the forecast, but the temperatures began climbing into the 90s on Wednesday, and with hot weather, officials might have to keep more water on the greens to keep the grass alive.

Woods was asked what he would like to see as the winning score, and he cut off the question when a reporter said, `Would you like it to be below …”

“Below 16 under?” he said, smiling in reference to McIlroy’s record score.

“As long as I’m that person,” Woods added, “yes.”

Woods is following his script from 2009, when he started the year by winning at Bay Hill and Memorial, hosted by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. He also won the AT&T National that year (he was the official host), though he never won a major.

He is coming off a U.S. Open at Olympic Club by taking a share of the 36-hole lead, only to stumble badly on the weekend and tie for 21st.

“I’ve won major championships, and I haven’t done it since `08,” Woods said. “We all go through periods where that doesn’t happen. Some periods are entire careers. But I think I understand how to win major championships. The key is just giving yourself chances.”

Nick Watney is the proper defending champion, winning last year at Aronimink, where the tournament went for two years because of the U.S. Open. The field also includes Hunter Mahan, a runner-up to Woods in 2009, Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott.

Getting most of the attention in the days leading up to the tournament was the golf course, which should present the kind of test the U.S. Open wanted last year.

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