Power Rankings: AT&T Nationaltext sizeJune 25, 2012
Rob Bolton, Fantasy columnist
Designed by Devereaux Emmett and open for business since 1924, the Blue Course at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. has been as evolutionary as it is utilitarian.
It's served as the site of three U.S. Opens including Rory McIlroy's record-setting victory in 2011, the PGA Championship in the year of the country's bicentennial (1976), one U.S. Senior Open (1995), seven Kemper Opens (in the 1980s), the 2005 Booz Allen Classic and the first three editions of the AT&T National. (Aronimink Golf Club outside Philadelphia hosted the last two years as Congressional prepped for the U.S. Open.)
En route to its embraced role as one of the most multipurpose tracks ever employed at golf's highest level, a Who's Who of course architects have laid their hands on the property. It hasn't just kept up with the Joneses, it's kept up because of them. From Donald Ross' early influence to Robert Trent Jones' redesign in 1957 to Rees Jones' pair of updates in 1989 and 2006, this is golf in the modern world.
Since the AT&T National was last contested here in 2009, Congressional has been lengthened 314 yards to a beefy 7,569. The sixth hole is now a par 5 (as it played for last year's U.S. Open), boosting overall par to 71. And the Poa annua grass on the greens just three years ago was replaced with bentgrass in advance of the major.
Weather played an integral part in McIlroy's eight-stroke romp at the 2011 U.S. Open. Despite the addition of a SubAir System, Congressional didn't quite show its teeth due to damp conditions that bled into the second round. This week, a dry-weather pattern will remain in place throughout the tournament, so scoring should be relatively challenging. Temperatures are expected to spike in the mid- to high 90s. Little relief in the form of wind is forecast.
Power Rankings: AT&T National Rank Player Comment Jim
Shared both the 36- and 54-hole leads at Olympic Club two weeks ago en route to a tie for fourth place. Seven top 15s in his last nine starts. Three top 10s in as many starts at Congressional in this event. Ranks 22nd on TOUR in greens hit. Hunter
Coming off a T11 at the Travelers where he carded a career-low, bogey-free 61 out of the first pairing in the final round. Sits fourth on the PGA TOUR in greens in regulation. Finished T8 here in 2007, T12 in 2008 and second in 2009. Tiger
The tournament host is "defending" his 2009 title given Congressional hasn't hosted since. Prefaced a T21 at Olympic Club with a victory at the Memorial, his second of the season. Ranks second on TOUR in both greens hit and the all-around. Dustin
Returned from 11 weeks off with a T19 at the Memorial and win at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He then missed the cut on the number at Olympic Club. Placed T23 at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional. Currently 14th in the all-around. K.J.
Winner of the inaugural AT&T National in 2007, he recently ended a drought of seven consecutive starts without a top 30 with top 20s at the Memorial and U.S. Open. He closed out each with his low round of the tournament. Ryan
Arguably the hottest on TOUR without a victory this year. In his last five starts, he's posted four top 10s including in each of his last three. In those four starts, he's an aggregate 33-under with a birdie average of 3.74. Tied for 21st at the 2011 U.S. Open. Rory
His workouts with Rick Smith have paid dividends lately with a co-runner-up at the Memorial and a T18 at last week's Travelers where he aced the par-3 16th hole in the final round. Shared 30th place at last year's U.S. Open at Congressional. Nick
Won the 2011 AT&T National by two at Aronimink in Pennsylvania. He tied for 21st at Olympic Club two weeks ago thanks in part to an albatross on the par-5 17th hole in his opening round. Sits 37th on the PGA TOUR in greens hit. Brian
Recorded his third T4 of the year at the Travelers Championship where he shared the 54-hole lead. Ranked inside the top 10 in fairways, greens and birdies at TPC River Highlands. Currently 29th on the PGA TOUR in the all-around ranking. Jason
Although he's struggled piecing together a consistent season, and with his first child on the way (due July 11), he can't go overlooked. He's the answer to the trivia question of who finished a distant second to Rory McIlroy at the 2011 U.S. Open.
In 2012, our expert will be publishing his list of players who didn't quite make the top 10 for that particular week. Here are five other players Rob Bolton likes at Congressional:
11. Martin Laird ... A nice fit on paper given his length off the tee and propensity to hit greens in regulation (currently 10th on TOUR). Also tends to play difficult courses well, so firm and fast conditions would cater to his game. Hot, dry weather is expected this week.
12. Cameron Tringale ... Rolls in on the heels of consecutive top 25s at the Memorial and Travelers. Closed out last week with a bogey-free 64 and co-led the field with 24 birdies. Ranks 20th on TOUR in total driving, 39th in greens hit and 19th in Strokes Gained-Putting.
13. Bo Van Pelt ... Tied for 24th at the Travelers, his fourth top 25 in his last five starts and ninth of the year. Currently fifth on the PGA TOUR in total driving, 52nd in greens hit and third in Strokes Gained-Putting. Tied for 14th at Congressional in the 2011 U.S. Open.
14. Davis Love III ... While he shared 11th place at last year's U.S. Open at Congressional, he's also played very well of late. Tied for third at the FedEx St. Jude Classic with four rounds in the 60s. Also closed out a T29 at Olympic Club with a 1-under 69.
15. Kevin Chappell ... Converging dynamics in play. Shared third place at Congressional in last year's U.S. Open, and he's coming off a T10 at this year's U.S. Open, his best finish of 2012. Carded a bogey-free 68 in his second round at Olympic Club.