Overhaul lined up for Booz Allen Classic
The first year the PGA Tour played at the TPC at Avenel, Greg Norman suggested setting dynamite to the ninth hole. A few years later, Nick Price advocated the same for the 13th, calling it a ``goofy hole'' that was unfair.
They might finally get their wish.
After years of such complaints, organizers of the Booz Allen Classic -- the new name for the tournament long known as the Kemper Open -- are planning an overhaul to draw more marquee players.
``I don't know why a lot of guys don't like the place,'' said Frank Lickliter II, whose victory at the event in 2001 gives him an obvious bias. ``I like the golf course the way it is. There's a lot of tradition here. And now to come in and add 800 yards to it doesn't make sense to me.''
The changes may not be that radical, but a one-year move to prestigious Congressional Country Club in nearby Bethesda next year gives officials time to give the course a shakedown. Players are being asked this week what they would like changed, although the ones who have decided to play naturally are more inclined to like it the way it is.
``I would just tweak it here and there,'' said Fred Funk, a local favorite and former golf coach at the University of Maryland. ``It's not a rerouting deal.''
The course changes are part of a two-prong strategy by the tournament's new sponsor to draw bigger names to the PGA Tour's only stop in the Washington area. The other way to raise the profile, they say, would be to get a more consistent spot on the Tour's calendar.
The tournament is typically held one to two weeks before the U.S. Open, seemingly a prime spot for players wanting to tune up for the second major of the year. But it also usually comes after the popular Memorial and Colonial tournaments, which makes it a tempting rest week.
This year is even worse. For the first time in its 25-year history in the Washington area, the tournament is being held the week after the Open. It seems everyone needs a rest after the grueling test at Shinnecock Hills, leaving just Adam Scott and Jonathan Kaye as the only golfers among the world's top 30 who will be teeing off Thursday.
``After they've been beat up like they were last week, the last thing they want to do is look at a golf course,'' Lickliter said.
The tournament attracted bigger names when it was played at Congressional from 1980-'86. It moved to Avenel in 1987, and nearly everyone agrees in hindsight the course simply wasn't ready for professional golf that first year. The instant bad rap hurt the event for years, even though improvements were made.
``They rounded the edges to make it better,'' said Scott Hoch, who has played this event every year but one since the move to Avenel. ``The greens were too hard and fast. You really couldn't hit shots to them.''
Hoch and Funk aren't big fans of the par-3 ninth, in which the tee shot is the rough equivalent of hitting a ball off a cliff, but neither is sure how it could be fixed. The 301-yard No. 14 has been criticized as being too short for a par 4, yet Funk and Rich Beem called it one of the great short holes on the entire Tour.
Of course, Beem will always play this tournament, no matter what. His first win came in 1999 at Avenel, and he was quick to give advice to anyone thinking of changing it.
``Don't do it,'' he said.
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