U.S. Open course worries McDowell

BETHESDA, Md. — Reigning U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell played the famed Blue Course at Congressional Country Club for the first time Monday. It was just a look-see practice round, so naturally it wasn't televised.

But, this being the 21st century, it was very much Twitterized.

"Congressional 7574 yards Par 71 US Open set up," he tweeted during his round. "No-one will break par."

It's just as well McDowell wasn't around for U.S. Open's previous stops at Congressional because in many ways it's a whole new golf course that, like Twitter, is made for the new generation. The layout will be the second longest in the championship's history when the event returns to the suburbs of the nation's capital on June 16-19. If all the back tees are used, it will be some 350 yards longer than when Ernie Els won in 1997 and more than 500 yards longer than when Ken Venturi overcame the stifling heat for his legendary 1964 victory.

"We want the U.S. Open to be a rigorous test," U.S. Golf Association Executive Director Mike Davis said at Monday's media day.

Congressional opened in 1924 and has been a favorite of many of the sport's biggest names but, like many storied courses across the country, it has needed tinkering to keep up with the times.

■ When Els won in '97, the course had a par-3 finish — a rarity for a major tournament. That hole has since been rebuilt and is now the 10th, while the 18th is a breathtaking 523-yard par-4 that slopes downward toward the water.

■ All 18 greens were rebuilt in 2009-10 with a kind of hybrid grass that better resists the humidity of the mid-Atlantic summers.

■ There are eight new tee boxes, set way back to increase the yardage. The par-5 ninth can now play up to 636 yards — and will have worst rough on the course in a gully right in front of the green. .

■ There is one concession in favor of the field. The 555-yard sixth hole will play as a par 5 instead of a par 4. Par for the course was 70 in '64 and '97, but this time it's 71.'Bad rule' gets scrutiny

Webb Simpson called it a "bad rule." He was penalized a stroke because his ball moved as he was addressing it on the 15th green Sunday, costing him one stroke and perhaps his first PGA Tour victory.

The U.S. Golf Association appears to agree. Vice President Thomas O'Toole said Monday there will be talks to modify the rule, with any change taking place at the start of 2012.

"If some other agency — wind or gravity — is known to cause that ball to move, no penalty would be applied," O'Toole said.

O'Toole said he hasn't seen a replay of Simpson's penalty. He said the possible change has been under consideration with the Royal & Ancient for at least seven years.