Just like the majority of the country, it's hot at Congressional in Washington, DC. Temps edged past 100 degrees as the tournament staff added extra water stations and misters for patrons and players alike. All the comparisons to the brutal 1964 US Open are out there, but at least these pros won't have to play 36 like Ken Venturi did that Saturday. Venturi's doctor warned him that he could die that day, but he secured his lone major championship.
Today's temps also seemed to ignite some players' games. Hunter Mahan blistered Congo in the afternoon for a 65 (-6) and surged to the lead. Mahan has played well here before -- the last three times this event has been held at Congo he hasn't finished worse that t12. It would be surprising if he wasn't in or around the lead come Sunday.
Here are some other news and notes about the AT&T National:
Tiger is back! Just kidding, I don't plan to use that phrase here. But he did look pretty solid with 27 putts on Friday en route to a 68, and in solid position to contend (t10). He's won his own event before, and it's worth repeating that if he does so again, it would be his third win of the year (to go with two other top-5 finishes). It's really just a matter of time before he puts it all together for four rounds in a major.
Vijay Singh (t5) is contending, but don't be fooled. Vijay is truly overperforming on the greens -- he's currently 62nd in the field. That might not sound so great until you consider that it's 116 spots better than his overall strokes gained-putting ranking of 178. He has put together two or three good rounds multiple times this year, but he's stumbled somewhere along the way. Maybe this is his week for a top-5, but odds are that he'll fall back.
Robert Garrigus is one to watch. I didn't put too much weight in his t3 finish at the US Open at Congo in 2011 because he really hasn't been very consistent recently, and all things being equal that usually trumps past results. But he's absolutely bombing it on a firm and fast course, is putting well (25th in the field) and scrambling exceptionally well. When he's been in contention after 36 holes this year good results usually follow, including two t2's. You also have to like this quote from pgatour.com:
"If there’s no rain, it’s going to be something else,” said Garrigus. "If you can just mentally just put it out of your head -- my caddie was telling me yesterday, hey, man, just think of the tournaments you’ve played well in; Tampa it was smoldering; Memphis it was smoldering. You play well in the heat because you don’t think about it.” Easier said than done, but he seems to have the right mindset.
Look who's trying to continue his recent results: Ryan Palmer. He fired a smooth little 67 on Friday to climb into the top-15, and with four top-10's in his last five events, he can't be overlooked.
Seung-Yol Nuh continues to impress. As we teased on Monday,
he hasn't missed a cut since April and has been racking up the top-20 finishes. After Friday, he finds himself in the top-5 and has to be brimming with confidence. He also gets his best results when the scores don't go super low, which it doesn't appear will be the case at Congo.
- The cut came at +6, the highest non-major cut on Tour in 2012. It also allowed players such as Jeff Overton, Rory Sabbatini, Ben Curtis, Ryan Moore and Kyle Stanley to hang around for the weekend and make a little money for their fantasy golf owners. They might not be too excited about it given the weather, but at least they'll play early on Saturday.
- Cameron Tringale had tied the lowest round of the day on Friday with a 66, birdieing three of his final four holes.
- Both Marc Leishman and Charley Hoffman are both t11 and in position after good results last week at the Travelers (Leishman won).
- Jason Day is in the top-10 in the field in both driving distance and putting. That's what we call a good trend and will most certainly pay dividends if it continues -- he's capable of winning from his current position (t15).
- Tour average driving distance is 287.3 yards. This week at Congo the average drive is 298.6 yards. Garrigus is averaging 328 off the tee, and he's not hitting driver every hole. The course is playing pretty fast to say the least.
- Brendon de Jonge is two shots back of Mahan and is leading the field in putting… which is a good thing since he's not hitting many fairways. He's 86th on Tour in putting overall, so it's a little surprising. He hasn't missed a cut since March, but he only has one top-10 during that time.
A quick note that we're thinking about the Evans family. Eric lost his grandfather earlier this week and left Congressional for the services.