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Congressional Oversight: AT&T National preview

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By Pete Pappas

GolfWRX Staff Writer 

The AT&T National returns to Congressional Country Club this week after a two-year hiatus from our nation’s capital.

Congressional’s Blue Course will set up with the same par and yardage as it did for the 2011 U.S. Open, but don’t expect the same historic performance from this year’s AT&T National champion as we saw from Rory McIlroy last year when he won his first major championship and put his stamp on 12 U.S. Open records in the process.

In 2011, Congressional received a bailout from Mother Nature. Thunderstorms softened the course so much that protecting par was hopeless. This year the Blue Course at Congressional for the AT&T National will be firm, fast, and ironically more worthy of hosting a major than it was one year ago.

“It’s in as good a shape as any time I’ve been here,” said Congressional Golf Director John Lyberger. 

With Congressional hosting the U.S. Open last year, the AT&T National was played at Aronimink Golf Club. Defending champion Nick Watney prevailed with a two-stroke victory over 2011 PLAYERS champion K.J. Choi on the strength of a bogey-free four-under 66 in the final round, earning his first AT&T National title and second victory of the 2011 season.

Watney will be grouped Thursday and Friday with Choi – who won here in 2007, and tournament host Tiger Woods – who won in 2009.

“From what I hear it’s fast,” said Woods speaking of the course conditions.  “I like it quick because it keeps a premium on shaping shots and more than anything keeping it under the hole.”

Woods is ranked No. 4 in the world and is one of three multiple winners on Tour this season with victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard and The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance.

Watney and Choi meanwhile are still looking for their first wins of the season — though they both have top-10 finishes to their credit.

Watney, Woods, and two-time winner this season Hunter Mahan highlight an AT&T National field that has its share of big names – including 11 major winners and nine 2012 tournament winners.

Teeing it up with Watney, Woods, and Mahan will be former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk – who appeared poised to win his second U.S. Open title two weeks ago until the normally consistent 42 year-old imploded over the final few holes. 

Furyk finished T-4 at the U.S. Open and also has a fourth-place finish at Colonial as well as an impressive T-13 placing at The Memorial.

Also in the field this week and a welcome sight back in the winner’s circle is Dustin Johnson.  Johnson returned from a two-month layoff to win the FedEx St. Jude Classic earlier this month in dramatic style.

Relying on clutch putting down the stretch Johnson fired a final-round four-under 66 to hold off John Merrick by one-shot.

Johnson’s recent success at Congressional bodes well for him heading into the AT&T National.  He finished T-23 at Congressional at the 2011 U.S. Open.

And maybe most importantly Johnson doesn’t appear to be feeling the effects of the serious back injury that forced him to withdraw from the Masters earlier in April — an injury that left him without the ability to practice for nearly six weeks.

While it’s true the Congressional field includes some big names it’s also true it doesn’t include “a lot” of big names.  And overall the tournament is considered as having one of the thinnest fields of the Tour season.

First because the AT&T National is given invitational status only 120 players tee it up rather than the normal 156 players. Second, only two players in the World Golf Rankings Top-10 will be in the field this week – Woods and Mahan. Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood (ranked Nos. 1-3 in the Official World Golf Rankings) have all chosen to remain overseas at home in Europe. And notable American players including U.S. Open champion and World No. 5 Webb Simpson, Masters champion and World No. 6 Bubba Watson, World No. 7 Matt Kuchar, and PGA Tour Player of the Month for May Rickie Fowler have also decided to skip this week on the Tour schedule.

Combine fewer big names with a larger number of relative unknowns in an overall smaller field – and the first impression might be something along the lines of “snoozer.” But on closer inspection there are many reasons to tune in this week.  Not the least of which include the exciting and possibly historic opportunities this presents for the newest young guns on Tour. 

Teen sensation 17 year-old Beau Hossler at one point led the U.S. Open and finished T-29 showing remarkable poise and shot-making ability every nerve-wrecking step of the way. University of Texas amateur 18-year-old Jordan Spieth took low-am honors at the U.S. Open with his T-21 finish and continues to do things earning him greater praise and respect both for his game and for how he handles himself on the course. And how about 20 year-old Patrick Cantlay who turned pro just last week at the Travelers Championship.

Then of course the significance of a potential win for Tiger which would make him the first three-time winner on Tour this season could just about mark the beginning of a new chapter of “Tigermania” all over again.

The Greek Syndicate – Plugged In Predictions 

Just one prediction this week and it’s because I’m going “all-in.”  Tiger.

I’ve been pretty critical of him all season.  And have given my reasons why I believe he’ll never “be back” or be the same “science fiction” type of player he was just a few years ago. Before the U.S. Open started I said he’s still the only player on Tour who can make the kind of shots like the chip he made at The Memorial.  But he’s also the same player who can go from delightful to frightful from one round to the next.

But if just for this week, considering his familiarity with the course, particular statistics, the field, and his career-winning percentage, it’s his time, and I think he puts together four rounds good enough to win – 10-under. Woods’ career win percentage hovers around 25 percent. And this year in non-majors?  You guessed it – 25 percent (two wins in eight tries).

Woods is second in ball striking, second in total driving, ninth in greens-in-regulation, 10th in putting between five and 10 feet, and 26th in strokes gained putting. If he’s going to fail or hurt himself anywhere this week it will be on putts from 10 to 15 feet, where he’s ranked an abysmal 155th on Tour.

Congressional Caucuses

Johnson Wagner, Ben Crane, Ryan Palmer

Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan, Davis Love III

Marc Leishman, Ben Curtis, Adam Scott

Kyle Reifers, Billy Hurley III, Beau Hossler

Tiger Woods, Nick Watney, K.J. Choi

Robert Garrigus, Jim Furyk, Jason Day

Bobby Gates, Brian Harman, Jordan Spieth

Notah Begay, K.T. Kim, Patrick Cantlay

Tiger “Sisyphus” Woods

Thinking of Tiger’s performance at Olympic two weeks ago, all season even, and through to this week, it dawned on me – Tiger is the Sisyphus of the PGA Tour.

For those who won’t know the story of Sisyphus — loosely speaking in Greek mythology Sisyphus was condemned to roll an enormous boulder up a hill, only to watch it tumble back down time and time again.  And it was Sisyphus’ fate to repeat this action forever because of certain “indiscretions” he committed.

There are conflicting interpretations of what this means for Sisyphus. Some say Sisyphus is happy because his struggle to reach the highest of heights will always fill his heart with joy and ultimately success. Others say Sisyphus’ quest for power and constant defeat personifies the absurdity of human life in that regard.

Which interpretation better applies to Tiger where he resides today as he chases Jack’s record? I’m not sure to be honest. But I think the interpretation that does best apply to Tiger won’t be known until Tiger stops pushing that boulder up the hill.  And then most importantly, why he stopped doing so. And I wonder if in the end it won’t even have anything to do with Jack’s record.

Notes

Woods and Watney share the tournament record 13-under 267 set by Woods in 2009 and Watney in 2011.

Television Coverage (EST)

Thursday and Friday: Golf Channel 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. EST

Saturday and Sunday: CBS 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. EST

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 Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

You can follow Pete on Twitter @TheGreekGrind and GolfWRX @GolfWRX

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Pete is a journalist, commentator, and interviewer covering the PGA Tour, new equipment releases, and the latest golf fashions. Pete's also a radio and television personality who's appeared multiple times on ESPN radio, and Fox Sports All Bets Are Off. And when he's not running down a story, he's at the range working on his game. Above all else, Pete's the proud son of a courageous mom who battled pancreatic cancer much longer than anyone expected. You can follow Pete on twitter @PGAPappas

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. More Help

    Feb 4, 2013 at 11:34 am

    What’s up to all, how is everything, I think every one is getting more from this web site, and your views are pleasant designed for new viewers.

  2. TheGreekGrind

    Jul 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to share your opinion and giving feedback ballgoinhole.

    I genuinely appreciate it.

  3. ballgoinhole

    Jun 29, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    Well done! It’d be so easy to write about an upcoming tournament by reciting fact after fact after fact, the tour is full of them. Reading your personal opinion and stated biases makes the reading more enjoyable and adds the right spice to the mix. It’s one thing when some lunkhead posts a diatribe or scathing critique and quite another to read something from a knowledgeable golf writer who exercises fair and reasonable judgment. I find it more enjoyable to hear what people in the know think.

    As for TW, say what you will about his chances of winning a tournament or a major, but what we all tune into is his passion for the game and for excellence.
    You absolutely would never hear Tiger calling himself an idiot (PMickelson) or casting blame for a round that didn’t live up to expectations. Even when we all think he’s imploded (USopen rounds 3 and 4) his take was predictably grounded in the reality of playing the game.

    There is no one on tour more fiercely determined and when this passion is coupled with superb play we cannot take our eyes off him.

  4. ballgoinhole

    Jun 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm

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Tour News

REPORT: Tiger Woods to play in the Genesis Open on Feb 15

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Last season, Tiger Woods withdrew from a press conference at the Genesis Open due to back spasms. This season, Woods will reportedly play in the 2018 Genesis Open at Riviera C.C. in Pacific Palisades, California from February 15-18.

By withdrawing from the 2017 Genesis Open — an event which his Tiger Woods Foundation hosts — Woods ensured that a promising comeback was not to be. At the start of 2017, Woods committed to play in the Farmers Insurance Open, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Genesis Open and the Honda Classic… an aggressive schedule for Woods, who hadn’t played much competitive golf in the previous year due to back injuries and surgeries. Things didn’t go as planned, however, as Woods missed the cut at the Farmers, withdrew after an opening-round 77 in Dubai, and withdrew from the Genesis Open and the Honda.

Since then, Woods has had spinal fusion surgery, and he recently finished T9 at the 18-player 2017 Hero World Challenge. It was there he showed the golfing world — and probably himself, too — that he can still compete among the world’s best golfers when he’s healthy.

At the Hero World Challenge, Woods was consistently hitting 179 mph of ball speed off the tee with his driver, and despite some early concerns with the wedge, he showed prowess around and on the greens. He was yip-less, fast, healthy, and finished 8-under through four rounds. A Tiger Woods comeback seems more plausible now than it has in three years.

Woods will continue to test his game at the 2017 Genesis Open — a start that will come 26 years after competing as a 16-year-old amateur in the 1992 Nissan Open at Riviera. Much like 26 years ago, Woods comes to Riviera as a golfer who needs to prove himself… it’s just that this time around, he has 14 majors and 79 PGA Tour wins to his name.

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Thursday’s Photos from the 2017 PNC Father/Son Challenge

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2017 PNC Father/Son Challenge at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando, Florida.

The 20-team field includes some of the game’s legendary major champions, and their sons. Notable teams include John Daly/Little John Daly, Nick Faldo/Matthew Faldo, Tom Kite/David Kite, Bernhard Langer/Jason Langer, Greg Norman/Greg Norman Jr., Jack Nicklaus/Gary Nicklaus Jr., and Lee Trevino/Daniel Trevino.  The teams will compete in a scramble format over 36 holes to decide the winners of the Willie Park Trophy.

Last year, David Duval and his step-son Nick Karavites took home the trophy, and they are back in the field this year to defend.

Check out our photos below from this year’s event!

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Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos

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Friday’s Photos from the 2017 QBE Shootout

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2017 QBE Shootout at Tiburon G.C. in Naples, Florida. Formerly known as the Franklin Templeton Shootout, or the Shark Shootout, the unofficial event plays host to 24 of some of the world’s best golfers, competing in a two-person team competition. The format calls for 54 holes; first-round scramble, second-round modified alternate shot, and third-round fourball (or better ball).

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Here is a list of the teams:

  • Daniel Berger-Gary Woodland
  • Keegan Bradley-Brendan Steele
  • Kevin Chappell-Kevin Kisner
  • Jason Dufner-Billy Horschel
  • Harris English-Matt Kuchar
  • Tony Finau-Lexi Thompson
  • Brian Harman-Pat Perez
  • Russell Henley-Kyle Stanley
  • Charley-Hoffman-Zach Johnson
  • Shane Lowry-Graeme McDowell
  • Brandt Snedeker-Bubba Watson
  • Sean O’Hair-Steve Stricker

Last year, Harris English and Matt Kuchar took down the crown, finishing at 28-under par for the event. Of course, they’ll be playing together again this year as the defending champs.

Check out our photos from the 2017 QBE Shootout below!

Friday’s Galleries

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums.

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