Congressional Ready For A Visit From President Obama

No one on property knows whether the President of the United States will visit the U.S. Open at Congressional, but the USGA has prepared just in case with a specially built tower behind the 16th green.

The tower has been in place all week and looked like a television location until a fronting shield was removed before today's final round. The location offers two areas of access for the President's arrival and departure as well as telecommuications hookups.

Here are a few glimpses of the tower:

 

"The greens are soaking wet, and so are the fairways. It's target golf. It's not really a U.S. Open."

Tough and honest words from Graeme McDowell Saturday after the round. He certainly wasn't trying to take away from Rory's performance (read the rest of the unbylined AP story or the transcript), nor is it a knock on the maintenance effort. But he was merely pointing out how different this course is compared to typical U.S. Open setups.
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“When I qualified, I was so excited that I was going to see him."

Great Rory and U.S. Open read from Jeff Rude, who tells us about qualifier Scott Pinckney and a friendship with Rory McIlroy that was rekindled this week:

So Pinckney waited for McIlroy to register on Monday. And waited. And waited. He said he kept going to the registration desk, asking, “Has Rory registered yet?”

Soon after, they met by chance on a clubhouse elevator. The scene smacked of something out of a sappy movie.

That night, they went to dinner, with Pinckney’s father joining. The next morning, they went to a shopping mall together, just the two of them. They had coffee there. They shopped. Pinckney said he bought some underwear briefs. McIlroy, who looks like he doesn’t need to shave, bought shaving cream.
“He hasn’t changed,” Pinckney said. “He’s completely down to earth. It was like nothing had changed, like we were best of friends.”

Quick Rory And Golf Course Observation For Saturday

Obvious question of the day: can Rory hang on this time?

We can't possibly know how much pressure the 22-year-old is feeling, but looking at Congressional's architecture and setup this week, the early speed horse has an advantage over the late chargers even if the Championship Committee follows through with their expected late-charge-friendly Sunday setup. (Something I explain more about in this Golf World Daily prognostication.)

In other words, the combination of soft greens and the Rees Jones pre-vent design makes this course much easier to hold a lead on than Augusta National.

U.S. Open Lemonade Stand PR Debacle Downgraded To PR Black Eye

AP's Joseph White on bureacracy gone awry just outside the gates of Congressional.

Children from two families put up the stand on private property—a neighbor’s yard that just happens to be on a corner across from a spectator entrance to Congressional. During Thursday’s first round, they received three visits from county officials, twice with a warning. The third time, a citation was issued for operating the stand without a permit. It carried a fine of up to $500 and required a court appearance.

“Does every kid now that sells lemonade have to register with the county?” Carrie Marriott, whose children were selling the drinks, asked a county official in an exchange caught on video by WUSA-TV.

Someone figured out this was not going to look good...

Since fining kids over a lemonade stand can be a public relations nightmare, a deal was worked out. On Friday, the stand was moved down the street and the citation was rescinded. The county also waived the need for a permit, which would have cost about $38.

A homemade sign at the old location announced: “Grand Reopening: 25 Feet Down.”

“It’s a nice pressure to have knowing that the greatest player ever at the minute thinks that you’re going to do pretty good.”

Rory McIlroy's opening 6-under 65 stole the show at a Congressional vulnerable to a low round in the morning and less so by the afternoon when greens got bumpy and the wind gusted, meaning his afternoon round was all that much more impressive.

Ron Sirak reminds us that Rory will have plenty of fans hoping for a win after the Masters and his recent Haiti trip.

Maybe it is all of that and the fact that in this age of self-entitled, overpaid underachievers in sports he holds out the promise of being the real deal with the added value of being a nice guy in the process. Here is a young man who may not only live up to the hype, but also not allow his genuine goodness to be altered by his success.

Steve Elling writes that Rees Jones wasn't surprised his patient was vulnerable.

Noted golf architect Rees Jones had been hanging around the 111th U.S. Open premises all day, and like many others, he figured that somebody was sure to light up the scoreboard at Congressional Country Club.

The conditions were right, the world's best players were on the grounds and the greens were running slower than traffic on the traffic-choked Beltline, compared to the Open's baked-out norm. Hours passed.

History has shown that when mega-low scores crop at major championships, it's frequently in the first round, before the pressure builds. Jones assumed somebody would make a wicked run at Congressional, maybe even threaten the Grand Slam scoring record of 63. Then absolutely nothing happened.

Late in the afternoon, Jones, who redesigned Congressional in advance of the Open, looked up as Ulsterman Rory McIlroy was making yet another birdie.

"All day we've been waiting, and now it looks like he might do it," Jones said.

Bob Harig looks at Rory's recent run at the last four majors.

He shot a major championship record-tying 63 at St. Andrews last summer to hold the first-round lead in the British Open, only to be undone by a gale-induced 80 in the second round. He still finished third.

At the PGA Championship, he was tied for the lead on the back nine and had a 15-footer for birdie on the 72nd hole that would have put him in a playoff. He tied for third.

The Masters, of course, became legendary for his Sunday meltdown. Tied for the lead on the 10th tee, he shot 43 on the way to an 80 and finished 10 strokes behind winner Charl Schwartzel.

And here he is again, contending at his fourth straight major.

Robert Lusetich explains how Rory is feeding off supportive comments received from Jack Nicklaus.

“It’s a nice pressure to have knowing that the greatest player ever at the minute thinks that you’re going to do pretty good.”

McIlroy will do well to heed Jack’s advice.

“He emphasized so much to me about not making mistakes. That was his big thing.

“He said people lost a lot more majors and gave them to him than he actually won. It was a good piece of advice to have.”

These Guys Are Good...On Reestorations

John Paul Newport ran the numbers and the verdict is in: some Americans just love their Rees Jones rees-do work. Thanks reader JB for this.

An American Advantage?
Since 2007, the golfers in this U.S. Open with the lowest averages on courses completely remodeled by golf architect Rees Jones (min. 25 rounds).

GOLFER/COUNTRY   ROUNDS    ROUND AVERAGE
Jim Furyk USA           44                69.12

Camilo Villegas COL   34                69.41

Anthony Kim USA      32                69.66

K.J. Choi KOR            32                69.69

Hunter Mahan USA     44                69.90

Phil Mickelson USA      34               70.00

Steve Stricker USA     40                70.18

Some Final Comments About The Return To Shinnecock

I file a Golf World Daily item clarifying what needs to be done next time around (not much...and is that realistic?).

Not mentioned is who deserves the credit for smoothing things over with the club and paving the way for a return. The names most prominent in the effort, not surprisingly and in no particular order: Jim Hyler, Jim Vernon, Mike Davis, Tom O'Toole, Mike Butz and yes, Walter Driver, the Championship Commitee chair who oversaw the wacky 2004 U.S. Open setup!

The U.S. Open Is Here, A Few Final Thoughts

After three very dry, pleasant and perfect weather days, the U.S. Open kicks off at Congressional with an uncertain weather forecast and an even more uncertain future for the putting surfaces. Normally changes in color from Monday to Wednesday would not be of great concern except that these are not even two-year old greens and the most stressed areas appear to be in rapid decline. Exactly how the warmer temperatures and continued stress placed on the greens by traditional course preparation measures impacts play remains to be seen.
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"You should have heard the conversations about that later."

Mike Davis talked to a few writers after today's press conference where Shinnecock Hills was announced as the 2018 U.S. Open venue and was grilled about the disastrous 2004 U.S. Open. Davis was second in command to Tom Meeks but shared this about the halting of play during Saturday's round.

Dave Shedloski writes:

"I went out to 7 and watched the second group go through, and I immediately suspended play. I didn't even have the authority to suspend play, but I suspended play."

Tom Meeks was in charge of setting up the golf course that year. Walter Driver was chairman of the championship committee. But Davis couldn't reach either of them on the radio. "Time was working against us," Davis said. "You should have heard the conversations about that later."

"It's hard to play the U.S. Open without seeing the golf course."

Doug Ferguson talks to young Emiliano Grillo, first alternate who is not allowed to play a practice round. The greens will be soooo much better off!

Grillo wound up in a seven-man playoff for four spots in the Memphis, Tenn., qualifier that featured mostly PGA Tour players. He hung around until there were three players left for one spot. On the third extra hole, Tag Ridings hit into the water on a par 5. Grillo and Briny Baird reached the green in two and faced long eagle putts.

"It was almost darkness, and it can be hard to putt in the dark," he said. "I three-putted, but I still made par. I was so mad."

It took him a while to get over the disappointment of being one putt away from playing in the U.S. Open. He packed his clubs and headed to upstate New York to start a busy season of amateur golf. After being informed Monday that he was the first alternate, Grillo took two days to decide whether to come to Washington.

"At least I'm around here," he said, pointing to a practice green that was filled with players like Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson. "It is something. But now I have to wait. If somebody withdraws, that's fine. If not, that's fine. I should have made one more putt."