Day of survival on tap at ultra-challenging Congressional Country Club

June 29, 2013

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

BETHESDA, Md. -- Four players are tied for the lead after 54 holes of the AT&T National. But no matter what happens over the final 18, Congressional Country Club will be the real winner.

It has been two years since the U.S. Open was played here. You wouldn’t know it by most scorecards this week.

The nearest Metro stop is a few miles away but there have been plenty of train wrecks at Congressional the last three days.

Just 26 players are under par heading into the final round, none of them lower than 7 under, the number co-leaders James Driscoll, Bill Haas, Roberto Castro and Andres Romero all share.

Saturday was full of weird and wacky moments for just about all of them.

Haas had nine birdies but also made a triple bogey, three bogeys and just four pars to shoot 3-under 68. And that was after playing nine holes to finish the second round, which was completed Saturday morning because of heavy rain the day before.

“It could have been a 6-, 7-, 8-under day,” Haas said. “But it also could have been a 4-, 5-, 6-over day if I hadn't putted well.”

Romero made double bogey on the 11th hole -- the same one that Haas tripled -- but was buoyed by four birdies on his front nine.

Playing alongside him, Castro went the other direction early, playing his first three holes in 3 over with one drive burrowing into a bunker and out of sight on the par-4 third, where he took an unplayable lie and made double bogey.

That was only the beginning.

Castro bounced back with four birdies over the course of his day, including two over his final three holes. But his best shot of the day was only good enough for par.

It turned out to be huge.

After hitting into the water on the par-4 18th, it looked like Castro would fall out of the lead. Instead, he took a drop just off the green and chipped in from 80 feet to shoot 71.

“Saving a bogey would have been huge,” he said. “Making a par is just bonus.

“I think over four days here, every player is going to hit kind of a rough patch.”

By comparison, Driscoll’s day was dull. He had five birdies and just two bogeys en route to a 68. He is the only player with three rounds in the 60s this week.

“I wasn’t playing that great coming into this week, so I had no expectations,” Driscoll said. “Sometimes in this game that's the best thing you can do is not think.

“It's not perfect golf, but you don't really have to play perfect golf sometimes. If you're just patient and putt well and have a good short game, it can go a long way, and that's kind of what I'm doing this week.”

Haas had a different explanation.

“I don't really know what to make of how I'm playing other than I've got to take the positives, and doing some good things,” he said. “Just got to hopefully do more good than bad tomorrow.”

With bad weather in the forecast for Sunday afternoon, he and everyone else will get a chance to do that earlier than expected.

Players will tee off between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. ET from both tees in groups of three in an effort to beat the storms.

They’ve certainly had trouble figuring out Congressional so far.

It almost hasn’t mattered.

Jordan Spieth, who began the day in a tie for the lead with Castro, shot 74 in the third round. But the 19-year-old is still in contention, just three shots off the lead.

Haas and Castro proved that’s nothing on this golf course.

It was the same number of strokes Haas lost after hitting into the water on No. 11, going from 8 under and in the lead at the time, to possibly out of the tournament.

“The back nine, I didn't really know where I was going,” Haas said.

But he birdied three of his next four holes to get right back in it.

“The way this course is set up with this thick of rough and narrow fairways, if you don't drive it good, you can make bogey on any hole,” Haas continued. “The greens are soft enough that, if you hit good drives and you've got a good number in your hand, you can hit it close.”

Ditto for Castro, who shook off his shaky start to eventually end his day where it started, with a share of the lead.

“I didn't think I was out of it,” he said. “The golf course is just hard. So 3 over, I knew I was still right in the mix. I thought everybody was going to hit a tough stretch.”

On Sunday it will come down to who handles that stretch the best.