2011 US Open: The Key Holes for Phil Mickelson and Other Contenders
The Blue Course of Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, is the site of the 2011 US Open. It has previously hosted the 1964 US Open, the 1976 PGA Championship and the 1997 US Open. From 2007-2009, following a Rees Jones redesign, the venue held the AT&T Championship. Jones has further tweaked the course in preparation for the Open.
The 18th hole is now a challenging par 4 measuring over 500 yards. The former 18th hole Par 3 has been completely overhauled and is now the 10th hole. The 6th hole has been lengthened to a Par 5 that can be reached in two shots. The course has been lengthened by over 300 yards and will play as a 7,547 yard Par 71. The grass has been changed from poa annua to bent.
Congressional appears to be a daunting challenge. On his twitter account, reigning US Open champion Graeme McDowell stated, “No one will break par.”
Pivotal Holes: 1st Hole: Par 4, 402 Yards
Players will have a great birdie opportunity on the opening hole. It is a short par 4, open off the tee with a large and fairly flat green. Golfers will not need the driver and should be able to avoid the right side bunkers to set up a short iron approach.
2nd Hole: Par 3, 233 Yards
Congressional quickly shows its teeth with a long Par 3. Heavily guarded by six bunkers, the tee shot will be daunting. Players will be happy to escape with a par.
6th Hole: Par 5, 555 Yards
The relatively short Par 5 should be reachable for most of the field. However water guards the front right portion of the green. Shots that are left or long will leave challenging pitches.
The second shot will depend on pin location. Both a fade and draw to the green have significant risk.
8th Hole: Par 4, 354 Yards
Despite a sloping fairway and green, the length of this hole should allow players to take advantage. Two well struck shots can lead to a birdie.
Ideally players will want to position themselves for a soft fade into the green.
10th Hole: Par 3, 218 Yards
A long Par 3 that is surrounded by trouble. Any shot short of the center of the green will be in the water. Flying the narrow green will leave a very challenging pitch back towards the hazard. The only bailout is green high to the left. Depending on the pin, this could still be a difficult shot
11th Hole: Par 4, 497 Yards
This mammoth Par 4 presents several challenges. The green is very narrow with water on the right and a bunker on the left. The left side of the fairway is undulating and slopes to the right. A good tee shot will have to challenge the right side creek
Two excellent shots are required for this hole.
15th Hole: Par 4, 490 Yards
Another monster Par 4 that is nearly 500 yards. Bunkers on the right make for a demanding tee shot that has to be shaped to the left. A tee shot to the right will likely not have a clear path to the green. The elevated green has a ridge and is also heavily guarded by bunkers. Further, a longer club likely will be needed for the second shot.
16th Hole: Par 5, 579 Yards
The 16th will be reachable for a decent amount of players provided that the tee short is accurate. Bunkers line both sides of the fairway in the tee shot landing area. Bunkers defend the front of the green, penalizing those who come up short. The green will be hard to hold due the shaved edges.
18th Hole: Par 4, 523 Yards
The finishing hole is the longest Par 4 on the course. It will also be one that demands extreme accuracy. A tee shot that does not catch the sloping part of the fairway will leave a very long approach. The green is guarded on three sides by water, with bunkers covering the right side.
A three putt is a huge risk as the green is divided by a ridge.
Contenders: Luke Donald
Fantastic play this year has him ranked first in the world. Donald leads both the Fed Ex Cup standings and the Euro Tour’s Race to Dubai. Except for a missed cut at Riviera, Donald has placed in the top 10 in every event he has entered.
He won the BMW PGA on a very difficult Wentworth Course. He also triumphed against a stacked field in the World Match Play.
Donald plays smart and is very accurate with his irons. He is great on and around the green. A player that stays out of trouble and can get out of trouble is a good bet at the US Open
With three victories in the past calendar year, Bubba seems on the verge of grabbing a major.
Watson is averaging over 310 yards on drives and is hitting 76% of greens in regulation. No golfer has a better arsenal of shots for this course. His ability to work the ball will be very beneficial on the numerous dogleg holes and to attack the green from the best angle. If he is off target, his relatively poor scrambling can hurt him.
Will he play smarter after losing the PGA in a playoff last year?
Mickelson will turn 41 the day of the opening round. He knows his time to win the US Open is running out and will be the most determined man in the field. He must take advantage of the extra Par 5 and the short Par 4’s. His short game prowess will certainly help him save a few strokes around the greens.
Phil needs to keep the erratic drives to a minimum to have a chance. The US Open is not kind to those who make numerous mistakes.
Kuchar is by no means a bomber but very solid all around. Accurate driver and accurate iron player. Very solid putter and a good short game player.
He has made every cut this season and plays a smart game. Kuchar is similar to Donald in that he naturally plays to stay out of trouble. That mentality will suit him well at Congressional.
Watney imploded in the PGA Championship final round, but has had a great season thus far. Watney has seven top 10 finishes this year. He shot a final round 67 in the WGC Doral for a comeback win.
It seems that he has learned from his earlier falters. He is a long hitter with decent accuracy and a very good putter.
On the Fringe
Lee Westwood: Doesn't have a great US Open record. Not a great putter and must be deflated following the loss to Donald.
Rory McIlroy: Has every shot in the book, amazing talent. The Masters collapse is not out of his head yet.
Martin Kaymer: Another fantastic golfer with all the tools. Has been struggling after trying to adjust his game to fit Augusta
Dustin Johnson: Hits it a mile and seemed on the verge of stardom. Since the PGA Championship, has lost a final round lead at Doral and fired his caddie.
Graeme McDowell: After a magnificent 2010 and beginning to 2011, McDowell is in a slump. Still, the reigning champ clearly can play under pressure