The Washington area, or more specifically, Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, has not proven a terrific mix for the best of men’s golf.
The heat was so stultifying at the 1964 US Open at Congressional that winner Ken Venturi nearly passed out before prevailing at four under par. Twelve years later, Dave Stockton won the PGA Championship on the Blue Course despite shooting one over.
Eleven Kemper Open/Booz Allen Classic/AT&T National tournaments have also been played at Congressional, most memorably the 1986 Kemper when Fred Couples’ wife, Debbie, bounded across the 18th green to embrace her husband after he had sealed his victory.
The last major played here, the 1997 Open, was the first for Tiger Woods, who finished a humdrum 19th just two months after winning the Masters at 21.
Woods, who pulled out of the 2008 A&T National after knee surgery, returned the next year to win the tournament which he now hosts. However, Woods, the most dominant athlete in sports during his first decade as a pro, announced yesterday that he won’t play at Congressional again in next week’s Open because of injuries to his left knee and Achilles’ tendon from which he is having a hard time recovering at 35.
This is the latest setback for Woods, who hasn’t won a major since the 2008 Open or any event since November 2009, a month before his infidelity became public. Revenge of the Swede, anyone?
With the start of the Open just eight days away, tickets are sold out, but Woods’ absence still drains the competition of some panache. Other than ol’ reliable Phil Mickelson, who’s currently eighth, the rest of the top eight in earnings on the tour includes: Luke Donald, K.J. Choi, Bubba Watson, Nick Watney, David Toms, Matt Kuchar and Mark Wilson.
That’s hardly a bunch to make golfers’ hearts go pitter-patter as they might have at the 1976 PGA Championship at Congressional which boasted Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Billy Casper, Gary Player, Tom Weiskopf and Hail Irwin.
Maybe Washington should forget about the men and their bad karma and bring back the LPGA Championship, which was held at Bethesda Country Club from 1990-93 and won by Americans Beth Daniel, Meg Mallon, Betsy King and Patty Sheehan with an average score of 10-under.
Just a thought, guys.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.