The Loop

Congressional greens already showing signs of stress

June 14, 2011

BETHESDA, Md. -- It's only Tuesday but Congressional Country Club has already been garnering positive reviews from players not suffering from Achilles injuries.

Defending champion Graeme McDowell called it a "great test of golf" and "very enjoyable" after his initial tour of the premises this week. Lee Westwood feels the course is in "great condition" and that the greens are "holding for a shot from the fairway." And Ernie Els, winner here in 1997, was feeding off "great memories."

That's a lot of "greats" at an event where moans and groans have traditionally been more common than whoops and hollers. But things -- and opinions -- can change quickly at the U.S. Open, especially with regard to the putting surfaces.

Already, the Congressional greens - regrassed as recently as 2009 - are showing signs of wear and tear. A close inspection on Tuesday morning revealed much of the grass around the edges to be already displaying signs of stress -- brown, dead looking patches being far from uncommon. Some of that is simply due to foot traffic, but most is down to the recent heat wave that last week saw temperatures soar into three figures, combined with the perennial fact that course setups at US Opens get closer to the edge of sanity than at any other major.

No USGA official was saying anything on the record, of course, but it would be surprising if some concern was not already being felt in high places. So watch out, this thing could get ugly.

-- *John Huggan *