The AT&T National is a unique stop on the PGA Tour, as it is hosted by living legend Tiger Woods and benefits his foundation.
Woods himself isn't in the field this week, withdrawing due to a strained left elbow that plagued him at the U.S. Open. The world No. 1 and defending champion of this event won't be back in action until the next major, the British Open, according to his official website.
Another notable absentee is Rory McIlroy, who isn't returning to the site of his breakthrough U.S. Open triumph in 2011 in favor of the European Tour's Irish Open.
Reigning U.S. Open winner and 2011 AT&T National champion Justin Rose also withdrew, citing exhaustion after playing in the Travelers Championship last week.
However, the focus should not be on the marquee players not participating—there is still plenty of intrigue to be had at Congressional Country Club, beginning on Thursday.
The fourth-ranked player in the world, Adam Scott, has to be considered the favorite with the ones ahead of him in the Official World Golf Ranking out of action. He's definitely not short on confidence, according to the PGA Tour's official Twitter:
Let's take a look at when the action gets underway, the tee times for the first two days and the top groups to watch in Bethesda.
When: Thursday, June 27 to Sunday, June 30
Where: Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Md.
Tee Times: First group is off at 6:30 a.m. ET. For a complete list of tee times for the first two rounds, visit PGATour.com.
Purse: $6.5 million
FedEx Cup Points: 500
Thursday: Golf Channel 3-6 p.m. ET
Friday: Golf Channel 3-6 p.m. ET
Saturday: Golf Channel 1-2:30 p.m. ET, CBS 3-6 p.m. ET
Sunday: Golf Channel 1-2:30 p.m. ET, CBS 3-6 p.m. ET
Groups to Watch
No. 18: Ken Duke, Billy Horschel and Nick Watney
At long last, at the age of 43, Duke won his first tour event last week at the Travelers Championship. He overcame a tying chip-in by Chris Stroud on the 72nd hole, hit a truly spectacular approach on the second playoff hole and set up the winning birdie.
Beyond the charisma Duke displays on the course, he now has a victory under his belt, and it will be interesting to see how he handles it at Congressional.
Horschel, a 2013 Q School graduate, is enjoying a phenomenal season, and he also got his maiden win at the Zurich Classic in late April. The fiery young American also fared extremely well in his first major, placing in a tie for fourth at the U.S. Open after holding a share of the 36-hole lead.
In spite of that strong debut, it appears Horschel isn't settling for anything less than first:
Considering this is a past venue for the aforementioned major championship and Horschel has the length to tackle it, he should fare well if his form from Merion holds over.
The last person to win this tournament hosted by Woods who was also not named Woods was another Nike golfer, Watney, who defended his title last year admirably in posting a top-10 finish.
Perhaps Watney doesn't candidly convey his emotions the way Duke and Horschel do, but his ball-striking usually does the talking for him. It's been a struggle as of late, though, because Watney has missed his past three cuts—and it hasn't really been close.
Only one of Watney's past six rounds has been under par. Perhaps a tournament at which he's had success before and some work with swing coach Butch Harmon will get him back on track.
No. 28: Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Jason Day
This Aussie contingent contended at the Masters, with Scott emerging as the victor in a playoff with Angel Cabrera.
As was hinted at before, it appears Scott feels great about his game and has finally gotten off the high of winning his first major, readying himself to get back into a regular routine and win tournaments again. It's also worth noting that he finished third here in 2012.
The past four tournaments haven't been kind to Leishman, which is a testament to how quickly the fickle game of golf can get away.
He followed up his impressive showing at Augusta National, where he finished tied for fourth, with two more top 10s, but his best finish since was at the Travelers (tied for 30th), and he missed the U.S. Open cut.
Day is simply a stud when the lights are brightest.
The 25-year-old finished third at the Masters, then tied Phil Mickelson as runner-up at this year's most recent major. Though he has just one win to his credit, the trophies should be forthcoming if Day maintains this kind of intensity.
No. 29: Brandt Snedeker, Hunter Mahan and K.J. Choi
An unfortunate setback for Snedeker in the form of a rib injury has prevented him from building on the white-hot start he had to 2013, where he registered four top-three finishes, including a win in his first five events.
Consistency has been a problem, but Sneds has had a tie for sixth at The Players Championship and a tie for eighth at the Masters since then.
Plus, Snedeker fared decently at the most recent major, finishing tied for 17th in absolutely brutal conditions. It's only a matter of time before he returns to form.
This seems like a course that would foster such a development too—since Snedeker has had two prior top 10s—before approaching his massive potential, as he did at the beginning of this season.
Mahan should be a formidable factor, since he tied for eighth at Congressional last year and came very close to winning his first major less than two weeks ago. Entering U.S. Open Sunday, he led the field in putting, which is usually his Achilles' heel.
That carried over to the Travelers in Connecticut with an opening-round 62, but Mahan didn't shoot in the 60s the rest of the way.
Even in light of that stumble, Snedeker and Mahan are second and third, respectively, in PGATour.com's power rankings:
The first time this event was ever held, the champion was Choi. His season hasn't been spectacular, but he's still made 16 of 19 cuts. The familiarity he has with Congressional may be what he needs—similar to Watney—to really have an impact performance in 2013.
Note: All statistics and past finishes, unless otherwise indicated, are courtesy of PGATour.com.
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