Weiskopf Recalls Big “W” at Congressional

Huff’s Stuff AZGA Golf Blog – Arizona Golf Authority

Even though there will be 11 residents playing in this week’s 111th edition of the U.S. Open, the guy from Arizona who might know famed Congressional Country Club the best is not in the 156-man field.

That’s because Tom Weiskopf, who captured the 1995 U.S. Senior Open at Congressional, builds golf courses these days rather winning scores. But in every way, the Scottsdale architect is the perfect source to handicap this national championship.

“It’s a shot-maker’s golf course, where you have to maneuver around corners and really move the ball in order to score,’’ reported Weiskopf of the 7,574-yard, par-70 layout that is essentially the work of the late Robert Trent Jones and his son, Rees Jones, who has rearranged it twice in the last five years while rebuilding every green.

“Congressional is such a neat course, a long hitter’s course, with a lot of elevated tees that favors the high-ball hitter. ’’

Whether or not those specs fit any of Arizona’s finest, remains to be seen. That list from the land of tall cacti includes Scottsdale’s Aaron Baddeley, Paul Casey, Martin Laird, Ryan Moore, Geoff Ogilvy, Chez Reavie, Kevin Streelman, Kirk Triplett and Bubba Watson; Robert Garrigus of Ahwatukee; and Arizona State senior/amateur Scott Pinckney of Tempe

When Weiskopf won at Congressional, the golf course ended exactly like it will this week, with a rugged, 523-yard, par 4 that plays down the hill and slopes towards the water. By comparison, when Ernie Els captured the U.S. Open in 1997 at Congressional, the course ended on a par 3, which Rees Jones made the 10th hole, a move that is certain to make Congressional more difficult as players come down the stretch.

But as Weiskopf pointed out, the course can take its toll thanks to eight par 4s that play between 466 and 523 yards, as well as the par-5 ninth hole that rambles on for 636 yards. Ironically, the ninth hole isn’t the most demanding; that would be the 579-yard 16th that plays straight up the hill.

He also noted that his winning score at Congressional of 5-under par is a testament to the course’s toughness. By comparison, Els had a 4-under total.

“There really isn’t any let-up at Congressional, in that you’ve got to be focused on every hole,’’ said Weiskopf, who posted three consecutive rounds of 69 there and then polished his four-shot victory over Jack Nicklaus with a 68 to join Gary Player as the only players in Senior Open history to shoot all four rounds in the 60s.

“That’s really what I remember most about what was one of my biggest moments in golf: I was so focused. About the only other thing I remember is I was in one of those really great moods, and those didn’t come along often enough.”

“The only other time I probably played as well, at least when it came to hitting fairways and greens and really controlling my ball and my patience, was a couple of those runner-up finishes at Augusta (National).’’

Ah, yes, Weiskopf, who has mellowed considerably since turning 68, won 16 times on the PGA Tour and five times on the Champions. His biggest thrill came in 1973 when he captured the British Open at Troon. But he is probably best known for his dubious distinction of just missing the green jacket a record four times, with two of those runner-up finishes being to Nicklaus. He also was a runner-up in the 1976 U.S. Open to Jerry Pate at the Atlanta Athletic Club.

Weiskopf, who like Nicklaus grew up in Ohio and was an All-American for the Buckeyes, said beating Nicklaus in the U.S. Senior Open was special. But he also didn’t attach a lot of significance to the win affecting their rivalry.

“I think the thing I remember most about the Senior Open at Congressional is that I kind of knew I was going to win it right from the get-go. I was playing good,’’ said Weiskopf, who splits his time these days between Arizona and Bozeman, Montana. “Plus, I had practiced prior to the tournament, and I NEVER practiced for most of my senior career.

“I guess I remember Jack finished second, but I don’t remember by how many strokes. Considering it was Jack that I beat, heck that was good enough because it didn’t happen very often.’’

So who is Weiskopf’s pick to win the national championship at Congressional this week?

“Oh, probably somebody like an Ernie Els,’’ he said of the guy who edged Colin Montgomerie by a stroke in ’97 after Scottsdale’s Tom Lehman had self-destructed on the 71st hole with a 7-iron into the water.

“A player who hits it long and high and can really work the ball around the corners. That’s your winner.’’

In other words, a player who has the skills that Tom Weiskopf once did.

Read Bill’s other posts at Huff’s Stuff AZGA Arizona Golf Blog at the Arizona Golf Authority

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