What it takes to win the U.S. Open at Congressional

The new 10th hole on the Blue Course at Congressional Country Club is on the site of the old 18th hole, changed during the redesign for the 2011 U.S. Open.
John Mummert/USGA

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.”