Whilst McIlory himself has chosen to tee it up across the pond on his home course at the Irish Open, a number of top players will be teeing it up at Congressional Country Club, one of which is Tiger Woods.
Although I can’t quite bring myself to invest in the former world number 1 at 11/2, I wouldn’t want to put anyone off backing him this week. After all, the last time he teed it up at Congressional (Woods didn’t play the 2011 US Open) he won with a score of -13. Although he wasn’t at his best in this year’s US Open, the field is considerably weaker here, and Congressional is a course much better suited to Woods’ game than Olympic Club.
Looking at recent winners here (when the tournament was hosted at Congressional from 2007-2009), two stats stand out as being of particular importance. First up is Scoring Average. The last three winners of this event in the aforementioned period (Choi, Kim and Woods), ranked 9th, 3rd and 1st in Scoring Average in the season of their victory here. The other important stat is Putting from 5-10′. Choi, Kim and Woods ranked 6th, 3rd and 9th in this statistic in the seasons of their victory at Congressional.
Here are my 7 selections for this week:
Jim Furyk – Whilst Furyk might not be my favourite player on the PGA tour, it’s hard to deny that he’s coming back into tournament-winning form. If we’re honest, he probably should have won the US Open in his last start, but a tough course like Olympic Club can bite any player at any time, and Furyk got bitten at the worst possible time. Although Furyk missed the cut at the 2011 US Open at Congressional, his AT&T National form from 2007-2009 reads 3-3-7 which shows he loves this layout. Furyk’s putting has been the missing link for the 42 year-old over the past year or so, but this area of his game has improved greatly over his last few starts on the PGA tour including at Olympic Club. Furyk ranks 3rd on tour in Scoring Average, and knows how to win on tough courses.
5pts win only (20/1 Stan James)
Ryan Palmer – You’d be hard pressed to find a player in better form that Ryan Palmer at the moment with his last three starts reading 9-5-3 (all on tough courses), so Palmer has to be in the staking plan this week. Palmer managed a very respectable tie for 21st in last year’s US Open, and he previously finished 22nd at the 2009 edition of the AT&T National, so he knows his way around Congressional. Palmer ticks the other relevant boxes too, ranking 11th on tour in Scoring Average and 27th in Putting from 5-10′. Palmer is a three-time PGA tour winner, and has a good record on demanding layouts.
2.5pts each way (40/1 Stan James)
Jeff Overton – Jeff Overton has had a torrid time with injuries over the last year or so, but seems to be somewhere nearing full fitness and looked solid in his last start where he finished 13th at the Fedex St Jude Classic. Overton was the 36-hole leader of the 2008 AT&T National where he eventually finished tied for 9th and just four shots back from eventual winner Anthony Kim. His maiden win on tour may be long overdue, but there’s no doubting Overton has the talent to break through.
1.5pts each way (66/1 Coral)
Davis Love III – Only a couple of years away from being eligible for the Champions Tour, Davis Love is showing that he still has the talent to compete on the PGA tour at the age of 48. Love has 20 career wins to his name on the PGA tour, and he ranks 15th on tour in Scoring Average this year. Before Congressional CC took over hosting of the AT&T National in 2007, it hosted the Booz Allen Classic for a single year in 2005. On this occasion, Love finished in a tie for 2nd, two shots behind eventual winner Sergio Garcia. Following that, Love finished 27th and 16th in the 2008 & 2009 editions of the AT&T National, and, more impressively, was tied for 11th in last year’s US Open.
1.5pts each way (70/1 Tote Sport)
Rory Sabbatini – With top-20 finishes in each of his last two starts (the former of which was a runner-up finish to Tiger Woods at the Memorial Tournament), Rory Sabbatini has to be worth a look this week. Sabbatini is a six-time winner on the PGA tour, so should demand respect for that alone, but he also has a decent record at Congressional. In the 2005 Booz Allen Classic, Sabbatini finished 6th, shooting par or better in each of the four rounds. Although Sabbatini sat out the AT&T National from 2007-2009, he did tee it up in last year’s US Open where he finished in a tie for 30th. Although the South African’s season stats don’t leap off the page, he’s a streaky kind of player who’s always worth monitoring when he shows signs of form.
1.25pts each way (80/1 widely available)
Seung-Yul Noh – I’ve been keeping an eye on South Korean Seung-Yul Noh this year, as he has been consistently turning in strong finishes in tough tournaments, all in his rookie season. Noh has racked up six top-20 finishes so far in 2012, two of which came in his last two outings, and his stats show that he’s a very solid all-round player with no real areas of weakness. Noh will benefit from having teed it up in last year’s US Open at Congressional, where he finished in a tie for 30th, and can improve on that this week in a weaker field.
1.25pts each way (80/1 Stan James)
Pat Perez – 36 year-old Pat Perez is not a name often seen on the pages of Golf Punters’ Guide, which is no great surprise as he only has a single PGA tour win in over 10 years on tour. However, Perez clearly likes something about Congressional Country Club which is why I’m giving him a chance this week. Although Perez didn’t qualify to compete in last year’s US Open here, he has finishes of 3rd and 12th in two of his previous visits to this track. Perez ranks inside the top-40 on tour in Scoring Average, and excels in Putting from 5-10′ where he currently ranks 8th on tour.
1pt each way (80/1 widely available)