The inaugural AT&T National drew a strong field, with six of the world's top 10 players coming to Congressional Country Club. But since then, the tournament has struggled to attract top players. No. 4 Tiger Woods and No. 10 Hunter Mahan are the only top-10s set to tee off Thursday.
At least the field is better than last year, when Woods was out with an injury and No. ?15 Nick Watney was the top-ranked player and eventual winner at Aronimink Country Club outside of Philadelphia.
The move back to Congressional has curiously done little to improve the field. Don't bemoan the fate of the tournament. Woods is a one-man rainmaker, virtually guaranteeing financial success with his ability to draw spectators and TV viewers. But wouldn't it be nice to see more of the world's elite players here?
For years, Avenel was to blame for the lack of quality players at the D.C. area's annual tour stop as pros never warmed to the course built on a former horse farm. But why don't more quality players come to highly regarded Congressional?
Bad timing is part of the answer this year. Rory McIlroy, winner of the U.S. Open here a year ago, did not return because the European Tour's Irish Open is being played at Royal Portrush near his home in Northern Ireland.
The tournament also is situated in a difficult slot on the golf calendar -- two weeks after the U.S. Open and three weeks before the British Open -- making it difficult to attract the foreign players.
- Kevin Dunleavy