Tiger set to defend AT&T title
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2010 AT&T National | Preview | 29 Jun 2010
With now just two weeks to the Open Championship at Tiger Woods is back to prepare himself for what could potentially be his third successive win at St Andrews when he tees it up at this week’s AT&T National Championship.
The event, which has Tiger Woods fingerprints all over it, has moved from its home of three years at the Congressional Country Club outside of Washington DC about 150 kilometres north to the Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square just north of Philadelphia.
The venue has a controversial and historical place in US golf having played host to the 1962 PGA Championship but having also been the subject of controversy when not prepared to install a Black to its membership in 1993, it relinquished its right to stage the championship that year. It was not until 1998 that the first African American became a member of the club.
The Arnomink Golf club is a Donald Ross designed layout originally built in the 1920’s and like so much of his work it has stood the test of time although it did go under Robert Trent Jones’s Sr’s knife in the mid 1980’s. The event will be played here for the next two years while the Congressional Country Club is prepared for its role as host to the 2011 US Open.
The earlier controversy of Aronimink is it would seem is behind us now, Tiger Woods presence proof positive of that. Woods has been the face of the AT&T National event since its inception in 2007 and is the defending champion. With a new venue and a major upheaval in the world of professional golf since his one shot win over Hunter Mahan last year then it is hard to judge just how things will pan out in 2010.
Woods has played a key role in the establishment of this event on the PGA Tour. His foundation has been the main beneficiary of the fund-raising for the event although this year, because of the severing of the ties with AT&T, he will not be playing his customary role as host.
Defending champion and arguably the favourite to repeat, Woods talked earlier this week about the course and his game.
“This is a golf course that has hosted major championships. There’s no reason we can’t play it tough. From what I hear it got some rain not too long ago and softened things up a little bit, but the greens are still pretty firm. They’re not making too many ball marks. But certainly the fairways are giving up a little bit but not a lot yet. They’ll probably dry out as the week goes on. The rough is certainly up, which is good to see. And it’s going to be a very difficult golf course, and that’s what I like to see.
As far as me winning, just got to be more consistent and string together more rounds like I did on Saturday at the Open. That was a nice step in the right direction because I would play so far this year two or three good holes, then hit a bad shot and I would take that air out of what I had built. During that stretch, I put together about 12 really good holes, and it’s something I hadn’t done all year. Granted, the amount of rounds I’ve played so far this year is about what I normally play through March. I’m starting to head in the right direction.”
Dustin Johnson will tee it up 12 days after his last round horrors at Pebble Beach. He has had time to put things in perspective. “Yeah, I mean, it was gone when I left California,” he said referring to any lingering thoughts on US Open Sunday. “It was a tough day, but golfers have tough days, and it’s how quick you can get over them is the best part.
I still love the golf course. Any time I can play a tournament there, I’ll play it. You know, all you can do is put yourself in a situation to win a U.S. Open, and I still finished in the Top 10, so it’s not like I had a terrible week or anything. I’ve got to take out the positives that I can from that week.”
Another looking for a bounce back from a last round disaster is Justin Rose who let a great opportunity slip last week at the Travelers. Rose does now however have the knowledge that he can win as a result of his breakthrough at the Memorial. If he was back in contention on Sunday it would be of little surprise.
Vijay Singh is definitely on the way back and this might just be a week where he further confirms his recent form. He was 13th last week in Hartford that following a couple of reasonable weeks at the US Open and the Memorial.
I have been harping on about Bo Van Pelt for the past few weeks and although he might be looking for a break he will be keen to continue his good recent run before a week off prior to heading to St Andrews.
Sean O’Hair has been very solid in recent tournaments and could well go on with it this week. He has recorded only one top ten this season but he has played consistently and I expect him to go well.
Australia’s leading world ranked player Robert Allenby played well enough at the US Open under a certain level of duress. Illness and injury did not help his preparation for Pebble Beach but if fit then he could do well this week.
Recent Byron Nelson winner, Jason Day, returns after a three week break, while Marc Leishman, James Nitties, Aaron Baddeley, Matt Jones, Nathan Green, Mathew Goggin, Greg Chalmers, Stuart Appleby, John Senden, Rod Pampling and Steve Elkington make up the balance of the Australians competing.