Four Names to Bet On…
Dustin Johnson – Much like Augusta National, Congressional favors big-belters with a soft touch around the greens. Past champions at the Blue Course include Greg Norman, Fred Couples, Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Anthony Kim, Rory McIlroy, and Tom Weiskopf. No one in the field – maybe even Woods — fits the profile better than Johnson, who won the St. Jude Classic three weeks ago, but missed the cut at the U.S. Open.
Tiger Woods – This season is starting to look a lot like 2009 when Woods won six times on the PGA Tour, but failed to capture a major. That season, Woods’ first three wins came in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Jack Nicklaus Invitational (a.k.a. the Memorial), and the Tiger Woods Invitational (a.k.a. AT&T National). Woods has already won the Palmer and the Nicklaus this year. On track to complete the triple crown for a second time.
Jim Furyk – No wins, but having another stellar season at age 42. In his last nine events has finished no worse than T26. The short-hitting, slow-playing technician with 16 PGA Tour wins doesn’t have the Congressional profile described above, but he plays the course well, finishing T3 (2007), T3 (2008), and T7 (2009). Maybe it’s the local knowledge of his caddie, Congressional member Mike Cowan.
Hunter Mahan – Lots of things tracking well for Mahan. He has two PGA Tour wins this year, shot 61 in the final round of the Travelers on Sunday, and 62 in his final round of the AT&T National in 2009, falling a stroke shy of Woods. Plus he’s an Under Armour guy, which explains his presence here this week. The only negative to playing in D.C.: His wife Kandi is a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.
Four Names to Pass On…
Kyle Stanley – After winning at Phoenix in February, he has finished no better than T49 in his last 12 events. He’s only 5-11, 165, but packs enormous power in a compact frame. Ranks No. 6 in driving distance, No. 10 in total driving, and No. 19 in greens in regulation. Putting is his Achilles heel as he ranks No. 183 in strokes gained. Is the 24-year-old the next candidate for a belly putter?
Bo Van Pelt – With a complete game, stats regularly point to him as an under-the-radar guy who is ready to win. But here’s the deal with the 37-year-old. He’s been a champion once on the PGA Tour with 43 top-10s. He’s not a winner of tournaments, though with $16.2 million in career earnings he’s doing it in style.
Nick Watney – One of the more shocking stats is that the defending AT&T National champion ranks No. 109 on the tour in scoring average. It’s easy to see why as he’s No. 142 in strokes gained putting and No. 100 in total driving. Some positives of late – led Wells Fargo after round two before fading and a T21 at the U.S. Open.
Camilo Villegas – At age 30, he should be approaching his prime, but seems to be regressing. His best finish this year is a T18 and he ranks No. 130 in scoring average. Missed the cut in his last three majors in 2011 and hasn’t played in one this year.
Four Who Would Make it Fun…
Beau Hossler – In briefly taking the lead in the U.S. Open the 17-year-old won a legion of admirers with his old-school game and an appealing, low-key personality.How about a Sunday duel between Hossler and his 18-year-old future University of Texas teammate Jordan Spieth?
Adam Scott – A year ago at Congressional, he solidified his relationship with Steve Williams, leading to the caddie’s acrimonious split with Tiger Woods. It would be a fun storyline if Scott can contend in Woods’ event. Scott has played a light schedule this year, but lots of solid work with top-20 finishes in the Masters, U.S. Open, Players, and Arnold Palmer.
Y.E. Yang – Stole Tiger Woods’ thunder at the 2009 PGA. Didn’t really make a run at Rory McIlroy last year at Congressional, but his 6-under score would have been good enough to win the Open in many years and put him in a tie for third. If he were to contend, CBS would have to bring Verne Lundquist in for a classic Sunday call.
Tom Pernice, Jr. – One of the most refreshingly outspoken players in golf. The oldest player in the field at 52 is skipping a Champions Tour major this week, despite a lack of success on the PGA (10 missed cuts in 14 events). Shot a second-round 63 at Congressional in 2008 to contend.