Professional golf has four major tournaments during its season: The Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship.
Two of those tournaments will never travel to our area. The Masters is permanently tethered to its home in Augusta, Georgia and the British Open is always held on a course across the pond.
That means only two of golf’s four biggest tournaments are in a nation-wide rotation, visiting courses across America. With thousands of golf courses across the country, it’s a very rare occurrence that one of these two tournaments makes it to the District.
The PGA Championship last visited the D.C. area in 1976. The U.S. Open was last played in here in 1997. It has been 14 years since Washington’s seen the world’s highest level of golf and its best players.
That changes today when the 2011 U.S. Open tees off at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.
Congressional is the only course in the area to have held a major, hosting both previous events.
Located just outside the Beltway, at the intersection of 495 and River Road, Congressional is one of the few area courses that routinely ranks among nation’s best. Its Blue Course, which hosts the tournament, was ranked the 89th best course in the nation in 2006 and 86th in 2007.
Unfortunately, if you’d like to play it, your options are severely limited. It’s one of the most exclusive clubs in the area, with an approximately ten year long waiting list to join. And once you do, there’s still a two to three year period before you’re allowed to hit the links.
That means that the best way even get a glimpse of the swanky club is to head to the U.S. Open. Most of the golfers arrived Monday, prepping for the tournament with practice rounds on the course. The tournament lasts four days, from today until Sunday, with the 156 person field all playing the 18-hole course once on Thursday and once on Friday.
The field is halved after Friday and the remaining players take the course once again Saturday and then one last time Sunday morning. Lowest overall score wins.
The tournament’s typical biggest draw, Tiger Woods, is sitting out this year, but that doesn’t mean that the field isn’t full of famous golfers. Teeing off in Bethesda today are such former major winners as Phil Mickelson, and Ernie Els, as well as up and coming stars like Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler.
Predicting a winner this year is difficult. In the past ten major tournaments, a span of two-and-a-half years, there hasn’t been a single repeat winner. In ten tournaments, ten different people have won.
If you’d like to see who takes home the trophy this year, attending in person is less difficult then you think. Although tickets for the Open were sold out a long time ago, as with any sporting event this day and age, there is a healthy resale market online.
On StubHub.com, four-day passes are available for under $400 dollars, meaning you can attend the whole tournament for under $100 a day. Single day Saturday tickets are currently available for much less, at under $50 a pass. Sunday tickets, when the tournament is settled, are currently selling for much higher, at $160 dollars a ticket.
If you’ve never attended a golf tournament, all tickets are general admission. Your pass gives you access to the whole course. Fans typically watch in one of two ways. You can pick a spot on the course and watch every golfer pass by, or if you have a favorite golfer, you can walk the course with them, following along the entire round.
The price is high, but the U.S. Open is one of the four biggest golfing events of the year and likely won’t come back to the area for a good 10-15 years. So consider it a once in a lifetime splurge and head to Congressional.
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