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For US Open Fans, Tiger Woods’s Absence May Be a Good Thing

Golf’s Superbowl is close to home at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda

Spectators watch players on the 18th green of Congressional Country Club's Blue Course, during Monday's U.S. Open practice round. Photograph by Aaron Kraut

Monday’s US Open festivities at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda consisted of a few dozen casual practice rounds, more than enough to bring Chris Liang to a spot behind the tenth green at 9 AM.

As thousands of fans walked along the fairways at Congressional’s famed Blue Course, the magnitude of this event quickly became apparent. Three days before the tournament’s first round, Liang watched as little-known pro Kevin Streelman practiced his putting stroke.

“This is like the Super Bowl,” says Liang, a Bethesda native. “It’s as close as we’re going to get to something like this in this area.”

The United States Golf Association has transformed Congressional into a network of merchandise tents, concession stands, hospitality areas, and grandstands, run by an army of volunteers ranging from ball spotters to shuttle bus drivers. 

The championship, the first at the club since 1997, is truly a massive undertaking.

Kathleen Coslett began planning her family’s trip to Congressional four months ago, at the request of her daughter, Gabrielle, and her friend, Kelsey Lecker. They made the trip from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and saw Adam Scott and K.J. Choi, their personal favorites.

T.J. Clark and a friend traveled to Bethesda from Charlotte and waited for player autographs near a roped off pathway to the driving range.

“You learn over the years. Just find a place where all the golfers are going to go and get whoever you can,” Clark says. “It could be worse. I could be at work.”

For Monday at least, the absence of Tiger Woods, who will miss his first US Open since 1994 with knee and ankle injuries, didn’t hamper the mood. The practice rounds typically attract the most earnest golf fans.

Last week, Bloomberg reported the ticket-resale market for the sold-out tournament dropped as much as 20 percent after Woods announced he would not be playing the course that also hosted his AT&T National tournament 2007-09.

“I’m more of a fan of the game than one particular person,” Liang says. “I’m sure the people running the tournament don’t feel the same way.”

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