Congressional and Tiger bear their teeth

July 06, 2007 | Drew Forrester

Reporting live from the media center at Congressional CC, where the cut has just been established at +4, which is nearly unheard of in a “regular” (non-major) Tour event.

K.J. Choi and Stuart Appleby might be co-leaders at 7-under through 36-holes, but the real winner thus far is venerable Congressional, where Tiger managed a nifty little 66 today that included birdies on his final three holes.  Still, -7 at the midway point is hardly a noteworthy score on Tour, a real testament to how difficult the golf course is playing this week.  It hasn’t helped, either, that the Tour (with help from Tiger, who played a part in the course set-up since he’s the “official host” of the event) made the 490-yard uphill 11th hole a par-4 (it plays as a par-5 for the members) and shifted the 18th hole tee to the very back of the golf course and made the finishing hole a 515-yard par-4.  Yes, the second shot is entirely downhill there, and most players are still hitting middle irons into the green, but I can tell you from experience having played Congressional in the Maryland Amateur a few years back that the 18th green looks about the size of a dime when you’re 200 yards out – 6-iron in hand or not.  It’s a tough, tough hole.  So what could be a par 71 or even a par 72 layout is now a par 70, which explains why 66 led after day one and 134 leads after two days.

The Tour has also figured out the easiest way to keep guys from making eight birdies a round is to simply let the rough grow.  While it’s not at U.S. Open height this week, it’s still a good 3″ in most places off the fairway and that’s more than enough to cause havoc with viritually any shot into those dicey Congressional greens.

I’m playing Congressional this September in the Middle Atlantic Amateur and I can’t wait to play the “new” layout.  A few years back, in anticipation of getting another U.S. Open (2011), the old 18th hole (downhill par-3) was reversed and made into a fairly-level 215-yard par-3 over water that is now #10.  And the old #17 (now #18) was lengthened some 25 yards and will most certainly make for a dramatic finishing hole this week and beyond.

As for Tiger, there was evidently an exchange between Woods and a reporter yesterday after he shot 73.  It went something like this:

Reporter: “So are you at all worried that you might miss the cut this weekend?”

Tiger:  “Well, I’m more focused on trying to get back in the thick of the golf tournament.”

Reporter:  “But at +3, it must be somewhere in the back of your mind that another round like that on Friday will have you watching instead of playing over the weekend.”

Tiger:  “I’ll be playing this weekend, don’t worry about that.”  Woods supposedly shot the guy a look as if to say, “Dude, are you serious?” and marched off to the practice range.

Tiger has clearly assumed command of this event in a variety of ways that might not be visible to the less-than-discerning eye.  Every volunteer and/or staff member associated with the tournament is wearing an “AT&T National” shirt made by, you guessed it, Nike.  Every courtesy car this week that brandishes the magnetic sticker on the door – “AT&T National Courtesy Car” – is, of course, a Buick.  Nike and Buick contribute about $60 million in total to Tiger’s bank account each year, so it’s easy to see why they’re a big part of his first-ever event in Washington DC.  Whether or not this tournament stays at Congressional or moves back to TPC Avenel or, rumor has it, perhaps moves to Robert Trent Jones GC in Northern Virginia, one thing is for sure:  Tiger is there to stay.