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FOCUS ON GOLF / U.S. OPEN

Congressional Gets The Presidential Treatment

June 12, 1997|BILL CLINTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Times asked President Clinton, the nation's First Golfer, for his impressions of Congressional Country Club, site of this year's U.S. Open, what players the course favors, whether he had any personal experiences there to share with the American public and his evaluation of each of the course's 18 holes. Here is his report.

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Every hole at Congressional is a challenge. It's the kind of course you remember each hole. I particularly like the ninth (a 607-yard par five) and the 18th (a par three over water)--they're good finishing holes. They're good for the fans and will cause a few deep breaths for the players Sunday.

The holes are honest enough to allow some birdies, the fairways are narrow, the rough is deep and the par fours are long enough that each hole will be a challenge.

The course favors guys who are long and accurate off the tee--and those who will play with discipline out of the high rough.

I haven't broken 80 on the course yet--even without the five-inch rough.

Erskine Bowles, my chief of staff, and I had a great day with two real players from Sports Illustrated, but the best I could muster was 82 with two sandies. But without any question, the course is a lot of fun to play. It's a golfer's golf course.

A look at the 18 holes:

* No. 1, 402 yards, par four: Nice, straightforward par four. If you hit the fairway with your drive, par is yours.

* No. 2, 235 yards, par three: Difficult hole. Long par three. Depending on pin placement, it can be really hard. If you're on the left, you've got a tricky shot back to the green, and you're looking straight at a bogey.

* No. 3, 455 yards, par four: Long par four. You've got to hit a long, big drive. Trees are easy to find. This hole is why you carry the long irons.

* No. 4, 434 yards, par four: No letup here--more of the same.

* No. 5, 407 yards, par four: Tricky hole--easy to get in trouble off the tee. This is a good hole to keep your driver in the bag. Stay on the right for the best view of the hole.

* No. 6, 475 yards, par four: Our first look at the water. Placement of the shot is everything. Stay left and hit it long.

* No. 7, 174 yards, par three: Short par three, but with a big and deceptive green. Three-putt possibility.

* No. 8, 362 yards, par four: Short dogleg right. Use an iron off the tee. Small, well-guarded green makes the second shot a real challenge.

* No. 9, 607 yards, par five: A monster at more than 600 yards. Monster drivers may be tempted to go for it in two, but the penalty for going for it is down in a steep ravine. The smart play is to lay up and give your wedge a try.

* No. 10, 466 yards, par four: An errant tee shot left leaves you blocked from the green, and to the right your ball will sleep with the fishes. (I know, mine has). It's a long par four, but if you can stay in the fairway, the green is big, and even if you're a long way from the hole, you can two-putt this one.

* No. 11, 415 yards, par four: Big dogleg left. Big drivers will be tempted to cut the dogleg to leave a wedge to the green. You'll see some birdies here.

* No. 12, 187 yards, par three: Elevated tee to elevated green. Depending on pin placement, this hole can really be tough. We'll see some three-putts here.

* No. 13, 461 yards, par four: Now the work begins. This one is a hard hole. You must stay in the fairway to have a chance at par.

* No. 14, 439 yards, par four: Here we go again--another challenging hole. Big green, but again, a premium on staying in the fairway.

* No. 15, 583 yards, par five: Hit it long and you can get home in two. But the approach is narrow, and bogey awaits you if you hit it over the green.

* No. 16, 441 yards, par four: Second shot is everything here. Difficult green to putt.

* No. 17, 480 yards, par four: Long drives will be the norm because of the slope, but the lie for your second shot will be downhill and you're hitting toward a long green with water. There will be some exciting threes and some disappointing doubles.

* No. 18, 190 yards, par three: Do you get a mulligan in the Open? A mid-iron to a very difficult green that slopes back to front. Anything short is also deep. If you're right, it's very tough to make par. On this tiered green, you have to place your shot pin-high, otherwise you can easily three-putt. A great finishing hole, even for a par three.

*

Bill Clinton, president of the United States, shoots in the 80s.

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