Aronimink proves it is major-worthy
Kevin Currie, Golf Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Some courses are built with major championships in mind. Others are tweaked and renovated in order to host the U.S. Open or PGA Championship.
Aronimink Golf Club substituted for two years as the host of the AT&T National, while the normal venue Congressional was prepping for, then recovering from hosting the U.S. Open.
The venerable track in Newtown Square, Penn. has been at its current location since 1928, and club officials are hoping this two-year tryout of hosting a PGA Tour event will eventually bring greater things.
The club has the two biggest events in mind -- the aforementioned U.S. Open and PGA Championship.
And maybe even a bigger event, a Ryder Cup.
Aronimink has hosted championships run by both the United States Golf Association and the PGA of America, the governing bodies who run two major championships, while the PGA also helps run the Ryder Cup.
After two successful years as the AT&T National host, there have been few if any disparaging remarks about the course.
The only comments questioning the clubs ability to host a major came from Tiger Woods, who said back in May that, "The only thing it's probably missing is the length and maybe a little infrastructure as well."
Length? The course played nearly 7,300 yards for the AT&T National and the club has plans that could stretch the course to 7,700 yards.
I'd say 7,700 yards is long enough, especially for a par-70, don't you think?
And if you watched the final round of the AT&T National, you saw K.J. Choi -- one the strongest players on tour -- duff a pair of shots in the rough. If Aronimink doesn't have the length needed, the rough surely was tough enough.
As for infrastructure, that brings plenty of things into play -- parking, seating for fans, space for corporate chalets, et al -- but know this, in 2009, the tournament had over 192,000 fans for the week and averaged well over 30,000 fans for each of the four tournament rounds.
The numbers were down this year, with just over 150,000 fans for the week and over 125,000 for the four tournament rounds. Suffice it to say, there is room for plenty of fans.
If you listened to the players last week, Aronimink might be more suited for the U.S. Open, which was mentioned several times.
"Everybody back home wanted me to try for the U.S. Open, and I said, I've got one in two weeks at Aronimink," Chris Riley joked after his second round at the AT&T National.
"This course is set up like a U.S. Open. The fairways are a little bit wider, but it's definitely playing very similar," said Joe Ogilvie after his opening round last week.
Will the USGA or PGA of America listen to what the players say? That is the multi-million dollar question Aronimink officials are waiting to get an answer to.
To be perfectly honest, even if they do listen, one of the year's four majors won't be coming to Aronimink any time soon.
The U.S. Open has courses booked through 2019, including nearby by Merion Golf Club in 2013, while the PGA Championship sites are selected until 2018.
The Ryder Cup? The next available U.S. date for the Ryder Cup would be ... wait for it ... 2024!!
In the two years the AT&T National was at Aronimink, the field's scores averaged under-par in just one of the eight rounds. That was aided by some benign pin placements that allowed for better scoring.
So you could have the par-70 course set up like the first round this year, where it played to an average of 71.5 strokes, or like this year's third round, where it averaged 69.3 strokes.
Aronimink can be manipulated to be very hard, or fair and scoreable.
After the final round, Ogilvie chimed in with these two tweets.
"Dear Aronimink Super, you nailed it today, fabulous job."
"Aronimink narrows fairways 3 yards on both sides and they can have whatever tournament they want. Why want a major when ATTNational better?"
Earlier in the week, Ryan Moore had this to say in the press room, "It really challenges every aspect, and I think that's what makes a great golf course."
And if you ask me, challenging every aspect of players' games is exactly what major championships are all about.
WATNEY FOLLOWING IN KUCHAR'S FOOTSTEPS
Matt Kuchar had been toiling on the Nationwide Tour until 2006. He made it to the PGA Tour in 2007 and since turning 30-years-old in 2008, his game has taken off with a pair of wins and 25 top-10 finishes.
Nick Watney turned 30 back in late April and is following a similar track as Kuchar. Watney climbed his way through the Canadian and Nationwide Tours, where he won once on both circuits, to the PGA Tour.
Watney started the 2011 campaign with five straight top-10s, a run that ended with his third PGA Tour title at the WGC - Cadillac Championship.
Since turning 30, he has collected three more top-10s and added his second win of the season last weekend at the AT&T National.
Kuchar's play in 2009 and 2010 helped him earn a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team last year.
Watney performance over the last two years will earn him a spot on this year's U.S. Presidents Cup team this year and quite possibly a Ryder Cup berth in 2012.
He has become the fourth-highest ranked American in the world rankings and will surely climb higher if his current form holds the remainder of the year.
- The U.S. Women's Open kicks off at The Broadmoor this weekend. Hard not to like Yani Tseng to earn her fifth major championship title and become the youngest ever to finish off the career Grand Slam.
- Golf fans that enjoy major championship golf will love the next seven weeks. There are seven majors on the PGA, LPGA and Champions Tours in that span.