The 2012 AT&T National will be remembered for many different story lines. Obviously, Tiger Woods winning his 74th PGA Tour event passing his idol Jack Nicklaus (and first player to three wins this year), is the headliner. The 2011 US Open at a soggy Congressional saw 20 players under par for the week, causing many in the golf world to question the course's difficulty. Just one short year later, Congressional extracted some revenge on the world’s best players.
The winning score was eight shots lower versus 2011 and only 14 players managed to break par at this year’s AT&T National. While early in the day there was a log jam at the top of the leaderboard, the back nine turned into a mono a mono match between Tiger and Bo Van Pelt. It looked like Van Pelt was up to the task of playing Tiger shot for shot, but when it appeared as though he had an opening on No. 16 when Tiger's approach fell over the green into a tough up and down (and eventual bogey), he was unable to take advantage of it and ended with three straight bogies himself. In typical Tiger fashion, he let the other guy make mistakes in crunch time and walked away with another W.
Not only did the course at Congressional play difficult, but the weather made it extremely trying, too. Friday was officially the hottest day the guys have seen this year, but with heat indexes topping 110 degrees, some of the players left the course saying it was the hottest day they’ve ever played, period. Then, to top that, some of the strongest thunderstorms the area has seen in years roared through on Friday night rendering the course virtually unplayable Saturday morning. It was one of the most bizarre sights that many of us have seen at a Tour event: Tiger near the lead on a Saturday and only 20 people following him (no patrons allowed in the gates due to safety concerns). But, thanks to the incredible work from the maintenance staff and some Tiger Woods Foundation volunteers, they were able to complete round three in a shortened time window and the remainder of the tournament went on without a hitch.
All in all, many of the guys we expected to play well this week had nice finishes, but a few others disappointed. Here's what we learned from a fantasy golf perspective:
- Tiger continues to put it all together. His ballstriking was again solid, though he didn’t hit driver as well as he has been (except when he needed it most on the 72nd hold, an impressive 340-yard drive that split the middle). This is the first week that he looked to be in control of his putter. He made plenty of key putts in in the final round and looked as though he had the speed of the greens down perfectly all week. The next step is clearly to put it all together in a major, and with Royal Lytham and St. Annes looming, Woods will be a heavy favorite.
- BVP should win… soon. A solo 2nd this week, six top-10's and 10 top-25's on the season for Bo Van Pelt. He is eighth in total driving, third in strokes gained-putting and third in final-round scoring average. It is a complete mystery why he hasn’t won more. If there was knock on his game, it would be his GIR percentage, but that's nitpicking. His game is too solid not to win at some point this season.
- A surprising weekend for Hunter Mahan. He was one of the pre-tournament favorites and after firing a Friday 65, Mahan came into the weekend with a two-shot lead. He lead the field in GIR and was T3 in driving accuracy, but 121 putts for the week is what eventually derailed him. Even with the disappointing weekend, Mahan continues his great 2012 season and he should be considered one of the favorites every week he tees it up. He is a strong play in the One and Done formats for any of the big tournaments as we head towards the final stretch of the year.
- Robert Garrigus seems to be a horse for Congressional. Top-30’s in all five of his appearances at this course, including a T3 at the US Open last year and a T4 this week. He was mentioned as a sneaky pick coming into this tournament and he did not disappoint. Garrigus hasn’t played consistently as of late, but making a mental note for the 2013 AT&T National might be a good idea.
- Seung-Yul Noh should be rookie of the year. John Huh has a legit argument, but Noh isn't the biggest name rookie on Tour... but with 20 starts under his belt and 16 cuts made, he is turning into one of the most consistent players of 2012. He has eight top 25’s and hasn’t missed a cut since mid-April. Going forward if there is a week when you are devoid of a big gun, Noh is a very safe play to bring home a decent paycheck.
- Congo is a GREAT golf course. It might be local pride since it is in my backyard, but the mark of a great golf course is one in which many different types of players can play well, and this week highlighted just that. Bombers like Tiger, Garrigus, Adam Scott and Jason Day all had high finishes, but so did shorter/positional players like Billy Hurley III, Brian Harmon, Mahan, John Mallinger and Greg Chalmers. Players who hit good golf shots were rewarded, where as poor shots were penalized; and most of the players prefer it that way.
The Tour moves to The Greenbrier next week and has a great field assembling in West Virginia. Tiger, Phil, Webb Simpson, Jim Furyk, Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson and Steve Stricker among others are all set to tee it up so keep it here for previews and updates.
Moving On Up: Ryan Palmer (four straight top-15’s), Charley Hoffman (three top-25’s in last 4), Nick Watney (first back-to-back top-25’s since February)
What have you done for me lately – Not Much!: KJ Choi (only 1 top 10 in 2012), Johnson Wagner (T38 best finish last five events, three MC's), Spencer Levin (three straight MC’s after a T4 at Memorial), Charles Howell III (usually a top 10 machine…only one this year)