AT&T National tounament preview
By LEE KOSTROSKI
After cashing in with Stewart Cink (+1400) two weeks ago at the Travelers I was “this close” to nailing my long shot at the Buick Open last week. My long shot, Woody Austin (+5000), had me hanging on the edge of my seat on Sunday in anticipation of a big time payoff. Austin was the sole leader of the Buick Open with just two holes left to play. He then proceeded send me screaming out the back door by picking up back to back bogies on the 17th and 18th . He wound up in second place behind Kenny Perry by one stroke which, of course, left my pockets lined with, well, nothing.
Now that I have that off my chest, it’s time to move forward and look at this week’s AT&T National in Bethesda, Maryland. With just two weeks remaining until the British Open, players are trying to hone their game and peak at the right time to have a chance to win the third Major of the year. The AT&T National is held at Congressional Country Club which has hosted two U.S. Opens and a PGA Championship. It was rated as the ninth most difficult course on the PGA Tour last season. K.J. Choi is the reigning and only champ in the history of the AT&T National as 2007 was the inaugural event.
This week’s prohibitive favorite is Jim Furyk (+1200). Everyone else in the field is at +2000 or higher. This is the second straight week that Furyk has been tabbed as the field favorite. He was +1000 at last week’s Buick Open where he finished tied for 36th at nine under par. I’m staying away from Furyk this week but I have a few other recommendations.
How about Steve Stricker at +3300? He is one of only two golfers in the field currently in the top 10 of the official World Golf Rankings. He finished 2nd here last year. Stricker has finished in the top 10 four times this season and in the top 25 seven times. He has made eight cuts this season and has finished in the top 11 or better in six of those events. He has been battling a sore elbow, however he has now been off since the U.S. Open in mid June and should be rejuvenated and ready to make a run here.
I’ll grab Hunter Mahan again this week at +2000. Similar to last year, he started the season out slow and is now really rounding into form. Two weeks ago I gave him my “approval” at +2000 at the Travelers. He finished 2nd at that event. A week earlier he made a nice run at the U.S. Open finishing 18th. He took last week off so he should be fresh this week. Mahan finished tied for 8th here last year so he has had some nice success at Congressional. He is 2nd on the tour in Greens in Regulation and 28th in Driving Accuracy so look for him to stay out of trouble this week and have a great shot at his first win of 2008.
Stuart Appleby (+2800) is playing well enough to get his first win of the season this week. He has made the cut 13 times in 15 events and has five top 10 finishes. He led for much of this event in 2007 before shooting a 76 on Sunday and finished tied for third. He is one of the better putters on tour and is 14th in scoring average in 2008 at 69.97. He should have a shot this week.
As I stated I almost won with my long shot pick last week on Woody Austin. This week my pick will be John Rollins at +4000. This might be a bit of a dangerous pick because Rollins played in the Buick last weekend (finished a very solid 9th) but then had to play 36 holes on Monday in an attempt to qualify for the British Open. He played very well again shooting eight under to finish second in the qualifier held at the TPC of Michigan. Hopefully his energy level stays up this weekend because his golf game is right now. Rollins is a solid pick as a long shot here.
Historic Congressional Country Club outside of Washington D.C. presents one of the tougher challenges on the Tour. Just two weeks prior to the British Open, we should see whose game is coming around enough to give them a chance at the next Major.
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