PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- It will be a different course than the one that was played 28 years ago, as well as a different format used, but the U.S. Open Championship will be returning to Congressional Country Club in Bethesda.
The U.S. Golf Association confirmed yesterday what has been rumored for more than a year: that the 1997 Open will be played at Congressional, two years after the U.S. Senior Open will be played there. Contracts have not been signed, but they appear to be a formality.
"It's not carved in stone because the executive committee [of the USGA] will be meeting Monday or Tuesday, but for all practical purposes, we believe we've nailed it down," said Reg Murphy, USGA vice president and former publisher of The Baltimore Sun.
Said John Jensen, Congressional's chief operating officer: "We're just delighted that the Open is coming here. The club is also pleased and proud to show off one of the finest golf courses in the country for an event like the Open."
It will mark the second U.S. Open held at Congressional and the third regular tour major. In 1964, Ken Venturi overcame searing heat and severe dehydration to win in what was to be the Open's last 36-hole final day. Dave Stockton won the 1978 PGA Championship title there.
Congressional also was the site of the Kemper Open from 1980 through 1986, when the tournament was moved to Avenel in Potomac. The course has undergone renovations since, including redoing all the greens. There are discussions under way about redesigning the par-3 18th hole of the 7,219-yard course.
"Wherever the features were good, we left the features, but we rebuilt the golf course," said Rees Jones, the renowned golf course designer who has reshaped a number of older courses for Open play. "Getting the opportunity there is like getting a theater to host a play. This was easily my biggest championship re-do, and I'm extremely proud of the project."
"In the minds of the championship committee, that was an important step," Murphy said of the renovations. "All of us have been impressed with the quality of the revamping."
USGA president Stuart Bloch said his only concern going back to Congressional was the Washington heat and its effect on the greens.