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Players set to test new long Houston course

Golfers will encounter more than alligators, wild hogs or an occasional bobcat at the Redstone Golf Club, new site of the Houston Open.

The most intriguing aspect of the course is its length.

The sprawling 7,508-yard, par-72 layout, designed by Peter Jacobsen, is the fourth-longest course on the PGA Tour schedule and a big hitter's dream.

"The players are hitting the balls farther, like 15-to-20 percent," Jacobsen said. "We just decided to build our golf holes 15-to-20 percent longer. I wish the tour would recognize that and make the fairways 15-to-20 percent narrower.

"You can't make these changes all with one gulp, they come upon us gradually over time."

Redstone ranks behind The International (7,594 yards, par 72) at Castle Rock, Colo., the Reno-Tahoe Open (7,572-yard, par 72) at Montreux Golf and Country Club, and Torrey Pines South (7,568, par 72), site of the Buick Invitational in distance.

Four of Redstone's par 5s stretch more than 560 yards, and No. 9 is the longest at 582 yards.

Jacobsen is sure the players will like his design.

"You can set yourself up for a lot of criticism, but I'm confident the players are going to enjoy the golf course," he said. "You can hit the ball in the rough or the trees, and you're still going to have a chance to run the ball onto the green.

"And, it's a shotmaker's course, too, because you're going to have to make all kinds of shots."

Tiger Woods isn't in the field, but there are plenty of players with power, including Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and John Daly, who leads the tour with a 307.8-yard driving average.

"I like it when it's set up this way," Els said. "It's got about the most length of any course I've seen, but it's fair. There is no knee-high rough. You don't feel too intimidated. You can go out there and really hit the driver, and if you miss it slightly, you're not dead. That's fair."

Vijay Singh, who ranks eighth in earnings this season, will defend the title he won at The Woodlands before the Houston Golf Association ended a 27-year run at the course.

Other top-10 money winners in the field include No. 4 Els, No. 6 Jay Haas, No. 7 Chad Campbell and No. 9 Justin Leonard.

"I didn't feel it was overly long today," Mickelson said after his practice round Wednesday. "I thought the fairways were firm and the balls were running quite a bit. It played short for the overall length it has on the card. If it does rain, it could play very long and that could be a challenge."

Rain was in the forecast for late Wednesday.

"I'd love for it to play long because tee shots into these greens are very hard to get the ball to stop," said Mickelson, whose 304.8-yard driving average is good enough for fourth. "These greens are new, but they putt perfect and they are difficult to get the ball to stop close."

 

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