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AT&T National Preview and Picks
by Matt Fargo - 06/28/2011
The AT&T National was played at Congressional Country Club the first three years but it has been moved to Aronimink Golf Club in Newton Square, PA due to Congressional going through renovations and ultimately hosting this year's U.S. Open. Congressional will once again be the host starting next year, giving Aronimink one more year to showcase itself and try and land something long term.
Aronimink is a Donald Ross design and with that comes a lot false fronts and subtle undulations on the greens. The track was lengthened from 6,955 to 7,237 to accommodate the PGA and that length aided in making it the second most difficult par 70 on tour last year. That par 70 layout that has only two par fives, one being 605 yards while featuring some very lengthy par fours.
You would think length off the tee would be the biggest asset but it is actually not a huge deal to be able to pound the ball. This is more about hitting greens and keeping the ball on the greens as those false fronts can cause havoc. If it is a case of nothing holding, scrambling is priority because birdies are likely going to be scarce throughout the week so pars will be good scores. The best news is that the weather looks perfect all week.
The field is far from great with no players from the top ten in play this week and with Tiger Woods out, it makes it even less energetic. He used to be the host of this event, which pays tribute to the military throughout the holiday weekend, but he relinquished that title. Most of the European players are off or opted to play the French Open this week, which is followed by the Scottish Open and then the Open Championship.
Last year it was Justin Rose (+3000) who won the AT&T National, which was his second win in three weeks. He had a comfortable lead going into Sunday but a final round 70 gave him just a one shot win over Ryan Moore. Rose started the season hot with eight top 25 finishes in his first nine events but he has not cracked the top 25 in his last five tournaments which include two straight missed cuts.
Nick Watney (+1200) is the favorite this week and for good reason with the watered down field. He is coming off a T13 at the Travelers last week which was his ninth top 15 in 13 events played. He has already won once at the Cadillac Championship and his T7 at Aronimink last year shows he can play this course well. There is not a lot of value with Watney but it is a safe backup this week.
Hunter Mahan (+2000) is in this spot a lot as he has yet to break out this year but this is a good field for that to happen. Mahan bookended a 63-66 with a 71 on Friday and a 72 on Sunday to place T43 at the Travelers last week which followed a missed cut at the U.S. Open. He opted out of the AT&T National a year ago following four straight missed cuts but it is hard to look past his seven tops tens he has carded this year.
Webb Simpson (+2500) is coming off a T13 last week which followed a T14 at the U.S. Open prior to that. He is having a great year without a victory as he is 16th on the money list and 14th in the FedEx Cup standings thanks in part to only two missed cuts and four top ten finishes. He has two solo second place finishes which came at the Transitions and the Zurich Classic, both of which had similar fields.
A slight longshot this week is Carl Pettersson (+5000) who has played well of late and overall is having a decent season. He has three top tens to his credit including one two weeks ago at the St. Jude Classic where he finished T8. He has now played eight straight round in the 60's and considering he finished solo sixth at Aronimink last year, he could be in excellent shape to grab his first win since last year's Canadian Open.
Another slight longshot is Sean O'Hair (+5000). He is one of the few players that actually does have a lot experience at Aronimink. It was over 10 years ago at the U.S. Junior Amateur when he first played here but having recently moved to the area, he has been a member here the last three years. A final round 75 pushed him to a T63 last week but it was still a positve week. O'Hair finished T11 on his home course here last year.