By Michael McGill

This week the PGA Tour heads to Bethesda, Maryland for the AT&T National which is being played on the Blue Course at the Congressional Country Club.

The tournament was established in 2007 and has been played at Congressional from 2007-2009. It was moved to the Aronimink Golf Club in 2010 and 2011 due to the US Open being played at Congressional in 2011 when Rory McIlroy won by a staggering 8 shots. This year it returns to its home of Congressional.

Blue Course is a Par 71, 7574 yard test of patience and precision. It has 96 sand bunkers and 5 water hazards. There are also three Par 5’s and the greens are bentgrass. The course has hosted three US Opens and a PGA Championship.

Tiger Woods is the host of the AT&T National which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation. He was the Champion in 2009. This year he is the over whelming favourite with the bookies at 6/1 to take home the winners cheque for $1,116,000.

Rounding out the top five in betting are Hunter Mahan 12/1, Dustin Johnson 16/1, Jim Furyk 18/1 and Adam Scott 25/1.

The Blue Course at Congressional plays much like a US Open where hitting greens will be a premium. A player will need to have patience and be a good putter as the greens are undulating and will be slick and fast.

According to many players this week the rough is high and thick which will mean hitting lots of fairways will take you a long way to winning. Due to the rough, expect to see good scrambling stats being a big factor too.

So apart from the five favourites already mentioned, who else is in the field this week?

There are nine current 2012 winners including last weeks Travelers Championship winner Marc Leishman. He was T25th here in 2009.  Joining him are Johnson Wagner, Kyle Stanley, George McNeil and Ben Curtis to name a few.

Last years Champion Nick Watney is back to defend his title along with Tiger Woods (2209) and KJ Choi (2007).  Watney played this course last year in the US Open and missed the cut. He was T66th in 2009 and T36th in 2008. He also played here in 2005 in the Booz Allen Classic and missed the cut on that occasion.

Eleven Major champions are also in the field this week with the likes of Lucas Glover, Vijay Singh, Davis Love III, YE Yang and Trevor Immelman. We also have International players such as Andres Romero, Jason Day, Brian Davis, Arjun Atwal, Martin Laird and Roy Sabbatini.

This week we have three players who we should expect to be up there challenging over the weekend.

Ben Curtis 55/1

Ben won the British Open Championship in 2003 then seemed to disappear from the top of the leaderboard for several years before finding his way back into the winners circle twice in 2006 at the Booz Allen Classic and 84 Lumber Classic. He then got lost in the wilderness again where he made only nine Top 10 finishes from 2007-2011.

This season has seen a totally different player emerge from the wilderness and stake his claims as one of the real success stories of 2012. He has had nine starts on the PGA Tour and made five cuts. All five made cuts have produced Top 25 finishes! Three of those where Top 10’s which also included a win in the Valero Texas Open.

He has also had four starts on the European tour this season and made all four cuts. The best finish was a T13th in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic back in February.

Looking at his last five starts on the PGA Tour you will not find to many more players which such good form. 1st Valero Texas Open, T13th Zurich Classic of New Orleans, T5th Wells Fargo Championship, T2nd The Players Championship and a missed cut at his last start in The Memorial Tournament.

After a three-week break Ben should be fresh and raring to go this week. His current stats should see him play well here. He is 12th in driving accuracy, 7th in GIR, 1st in strokes gained putting, 1st in 3 putt avoidance, 6th in birdie average and 2nd in Par 4 performance.

John Huh 80/1

I am a big fan of this young guy. This is his rookie year on tour and he already has a win to his name. He is currently 75th in the World Golf rankings and the 22-year-old has a big future on the PGA Tour.

When John won the Mayakoba Golf Classic in February he started his fourth round seven strokes behind the overnight leader. He went out and shot an 8 under 63 to finish at 13-under. He ended up in a play off with Robert Allenby. The play off went for eight holes!!! The guy has nerves of steel.

He has had 17 starts this season and made 12 cuts. 8 of those were Top 25 finishes. Highlights have been T6th Farmers Insurance, T2nd Valero Texas Open and T5th Crowne Plaza Invitational.

His last two starts have been a T19th at The Memorial Tournament and a missed cut last week at the Travelers Championship.

Stats wise he is looking good for Congressional. 9th in driving accuracy, 23rd in strokes gained putting, 13th in all round ranking and 7th in GIR 200+yards.

You have to love a guy who’s favourite quote is “The pain of sacrifice is nothing compared to the pain of regret“.  That second tour win is not to far away.

Brendon De Jonge 80/1

This selection is purely made on the basis of a guy who is on the upwards curve and is not to far away from posting a high finish. This could be the week. Keep a close eye on him over the next few weeks.

Brendon has been a busy guy this season with 19 starts on the tour. He has made 16 of those cuts and had five Top 25’s and two Top 10’s.

His stats have him 15th in GIR, 36th in scoring average, 22nd in all round ranking and 9th in Par 5’s.

Now check out the curve I was on about. His last four starts have been T41st Crowne Plaza Invitational, T38th The Memorial Tournament, T34th St Jude Classic and T8th Travelers Championship.

He may not go on and win this week however I expect to see a high finish which could be great for each way or Top 10 backers.

 

Good luck and good punting.

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