Congressional playing fast and furious

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Sports,Golf,Kevin Dunleavy

Blue Course's greens, fairways and rough looking tough

Someone has to pay for Rory McIlroy's 16-under-par torching of Congressional Country Club in the 2011 U.S. Open. It likely will be the 120 players who tee off Thursday in the AT&T National.

Early reviews of the famed Blue Course have been ominous, with virtually every player speaking of the firm, fast conditions. For those in the field two weeks at ago in the U.S. Open, Congressional Blue will play much like the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

"It definitely has a U.S. Open style feel to it," Jim Furyk said.

Unlike last year, when rain softened the course considerably, weather conditions have been ideal this spring, allowing the rough to grow lush and the fairways and greens to be cut short and fast. Congressional's Mike Leemhuis said the course is in the best shape of his 14 years as general manager. Tournament chairman and Congressional vice president Greg Lamb agrees.

"The grass is very healthy. The course is in tremendous shape, the best it has ever been," Lamb said. "We made some changes, how we conditioned the course, before this year. We've used less water, done more rolling, so it's much firmer than we've had in the past."

According to Furyk, it's not just the shape of the course that will make it difficult; it's the setup. He said he was surprised to find the "rough lines" the same as for last year's Open. Furyk said that at Pebble Beach, for example the difference in the setup for a U.S. Open and a regular PGA Tour stop is obvious. Not so this week at Congressional.

"Here they've kept the golf course narrow," Furyk said. "The rough is -- I don't want to say it's the longest I've seen it -- but it's very, very thick and difficult to play out of. And the greens, still being somewhat new, are very, very firm."

There is good news for the players, however. With temperatures expected to reach close to 100 degrees Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it will limit how close the greens and fairways will be cut.

"With the heat coming in, I think they're going to try to keep this golf course alive," Tiger Woods joked Wednesday on the Golf Channel. "They're going to have to water it quite a bit."

But there's no chance players will see their shots back up on greens as they did so often in the 2011 Open.

"We're not going to be able to put enough water on them to soften these greens," Lamb said.

The winning scores in the AT&T Nationals played at Congressional were 9-under par by K.J. Choi (2007), 12 under by Anthony Kim (2008) and 13 under by Woods (2009), who joked Tuesday that he would like this year's winner to shoot better than 16 under "as long as I was that person."

Furyk sounded as if he would take a score of even par as he described some of the difficult holes that await players, such as No. 2, a 233-yard par 3.

"I hit a 3-wood onto the front of the green, and it ended up on the back of the green, and it was into the breeze," Furyk said. "I said, 'OK, game on. Now I realize what I have to get ready for this week.'?"

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kevin Dunleavy

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner