Tiger-less AT&T still offers interest
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2008 AT&T National | Preview | 02 Jul 2008
The AT&T National hosted by Tiger Woods is played this week at the famed Congressional Country Club in Maryland just outside of Washington DC with host Tiger Woods unable to play a role of any sort in the event. With Woods’ knee surgery only just completed there is danger in him flying at present and he is no doubt keen to heed his specialist’s advice and rest up.
The event is being played for the second occasion, K.J. Choi winning by three over Steve Stricker in the event’s debut on the PGA Tour in 2007. Both K.J. Choi and Stricker are struggling with their games at present and a repeat quinella would look unlikely.
The Blue Course at the Congressional Country Club is a quality layout designed in 1957 by Robert Trent Jones Snr and redesigned by his son Rees Jones in 1989. The home club of many of America’s most powerful politicians and businessmen, the Congressional has played host to two US Opens and a Senior US Open in addition to several US PGA Tour events over the years. In 1964, and just a few years after opening, the course witnessed Ken Venturi’s dramatic US Open victory and in 1997 Ernie Els won a tightly fought US Open over Colin Montgomerie and Tom Lehman.
With its host Tiger Woods out of competitive action and only two of the top ten in the world competing in the event, the tournament is perhaps devoid of superstars but that should not stop the event once again capturing the imagination of the golfing public.
Jim Furyk might have slipped from the lofty heights he enjoyed in the world rankings when playing this event in 2007 but he is not playing all that badly and on a golf course that suits his style of play, he stands a very good chance of finding winning form.
Hunter Mahan played well in the event in 2007 and seems to be finding form as he did at this time of the year twelve months ago. His runner up finish at the Travelers two weeks ago is a good guide to a player who could well better than his 8th place finish last year when a last round of 65 catapulted him up the leaderboard. He should do well.
Stuart Appleby led by two shots into the final round of this event last year before a final round of 76 saw him finish third. Appleby is not playing at the level he was earlier in the season when he was seemingly in contention every week but his recent form would suggest that a repeat of last year would not be completely out of the question. Appleby seems to enjoy this area having won the Kemper Open just down the road at the TPC Avenel earlier in his career.
Robert Allenby is playing well of late and with a 6th place finish in this event last year he should do well again. He had a good week at the US Open and finished runner up in Memphis a month ago.
This is a golf course worthy of a major winner and Trevor Immelman fits the bill after his win at Augusta. He finished runner up at the Stanford event after perhaps losing focus for a few weeks after his historic win in April but he is a class player and this is a class golf course.
Of the other Australians, Nick O’Hern is getting closer to a big week and had his best USPGA Tour finish at this venue when runner up at the Booz Allen event in 2006. While O’Hern has not threatened to win in recent weeks, he has made a lot of cuts and this is obviously a golf course that suits him.
Aaron Baddeley seems to be the forgotten man of late but his game is in good enough shape for a good week and so too is Rod Pampling’s. Pampling had a chance to win the tournament at Colonial recently before a Mickelson miracle at the 72nd hole snuffed out his chances but is generally playing well.
Peter Lonard seems to be keen on the progress his game is making, while Mathew Goggin, Jason Day, Steve Elkington, Matt Jones, John Senden, Brett Rumford and Stephen Leaney have all shown glimpses of their ability of late and New Zealander Tim Wilkinson finally made a cut last week after a few weeks out of sorts with his game.