What it takes to win the U.S. Open at Congressional
Ernie Els won his second of two U.S. Opens at Congressional in 1997. He reveals this year's three make-or-break holes, with an assist from course insiders
No. 6: 555-yard par-5
ERNIE's TAKE: "In 1997, the sixth played as a long par 4 for us, so the USGA is giving us a break this year! We'll be hitting our second shots with long irons and woods into a small green with water short and right. That water will make for some nervous approach shots."
INSIDER'S TAKE: "This par 5 is reachable if the USGA move the tees up," says Trevor Randolph, a plus-2 handicap and Congressional's reigning club champion. "But the goal is to find the short grass off the tee, even if that means keeping driver in the bag. It's a feast-or-famine hole. Split the fairway and you have a great chance at birdie. But a drive in the rough is a likely bogey."
No. 10: 218-yard par-3
ERNIE's TAKE: "The 10th hole is a new hole; it's on the site of the old 18th hole. Pins in the front of the green will make the water a factor. As at all U.S. Opens, the hole locations will go a long way in determining how tough Congressional plays."
INSIDER'S TAKE: "The largest lake on the course fronts the green, with two bunkers behind and one to the right," says John Lyberger, the club's director of golf. "The slope in front of the green guarantees that shots coming up short will get wet."
No. 18: 523-yard par-4
ERNIE's TAKE: "No. 18 this year was the 17th [in 1997]. That will be some, some hole. It might decide the winner. The green is right into the water, and the water comes around on the left and behind the green. You have to find the fairway. If you don't, you're gonna have trouble hitting your second shot onto the green. In 1997, I was one of the few guys to hit the green in two and two-putt for par. The other guys missed the green and made bogeys and doubles."
INSIDER'S TAKE: "Ernie's right - accuracy off the tee is key," Lyberger says. "Congressional's finishing hole sets up for a long, right-to- left tee shot through a narrow opening of trees. Anything right could find a thick grove of cedars. Bunkers right of the green and water on three sides make the second shot a test of courage. This is the longest of the course's par 4s and should create a dramatic finish."