- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2004

Old Blue is back on the major marquee.

Confirming months of speculation, the USGA formally announced yesterday the U.S. Open would return to Congressional Country Club in 2011.

“The prestige a U.S. Open brings to our state is almost incalculable. And the economic impact, though difficult to exactly assess seven years in advance, is projected to inject hundreds of millions of dollars into the community,” Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich said at a press conference at the famed club. “It’s another great day in the history of the state of Maryland.”

Aside from the USGA’s flagship event, which also was contested on the Blue Course in 1964 and 1997, the organization announced it had awarded the 2009 U.S. Amateur Championship to the club, marking the first time since 1932 (Baltimore CC) the nation’s premier amateur golf tournament will be played in the Baltimore-Washington area.

“The relationship between Congressional and the USGA reaches back 55 years to the 1949 U.S. Junior Amateur,” USGA deputy executive director Mike Butz said. “We’ve had nothing but great events and great experiences with this club and its members, and we look forward to furthering that history of excellence and friendship in the coming years.”

Perhaps the most intriguing bit of information revealed yesterday involves the proposed changes to the course’s traditional championship routing plan for both events. The par-3 that served as the finishing hole in the 1997 U.S. Open is scheduled to be redesigned in 2006. Architect Rees Jones has been contracted to renovate the hole so the tee and green complexes are roughly flipped, resulting in an approximately 220-yard hole that will be played from the clubhouse back across the pond to what at the 1997 Open was the 18th tee.

That hole will then become the 10th hole, alleviating logistical strains and allowing the championships to conclude on the dramatic par-4 gem (formerly No.17) that defined the 1997 Open. This 490-yard, downhill devil to a narrow peninsula green proved the demise of both Tom Lehman and Colin Montgomerie in 1997. The former hooked his ball into the pond, and the latter missed a 6-footer for par, both forfeiting the crown to steady South African Ernie Els.

“Both sides were in agreement that switching the par-3 and going back to finishing on that fantastic par-4 would enhance the event,” USGA director of communication Marty Parkes said. “Shuttling guys around the par-3 was a little awkward [at the 1995 U.S. Senior Open], and the only negative I heard at the 1997 Open was that some people weren’t crazy about the idea of finishing a major championship on a par-3. The new design should address both concerns.”

The 2006 timeline, however, means renovations will not be complete when the Booz Allen Classic makes its one-year stop at Congressional next year. In nearly every other respect, however, next year’s PGA Tour stop should provide an appetite-whetting treat for the world’s best players. And the 2009 U.S. Amateur should provide a perfect dress rehearsal for the golf course.

Aside from the 1997 Open won by Els, three other major events have been conducted at Congressional — the 1964 U.S. Open (Ken Venturi), the 1976 PGA Championship (Dave Stockton) and the 1995 U.S. Senior Open (Tom Weiskopf).

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