A return to the Blue Course at Congressional is the next stop for the PGA Tour pros but the tournament is under a different guise, as Quicken Loans have taken over from AT & T as the sponsor of Tiger Woods' event. Net proceeds from the the week go to the Tiger Woods Foundation, and Tiger himself returns to action after a long injury lay off.
Woods has taken down this tournament twice in recent renewals and the sportsbook traders are taking no real chances as he returns to head the market at 12.00. Last year we targeted Total Driving when profiling a potential winner and Bill Haas came up trumps - he will defend at 31.00. Jason Day is noted for his runner up finish to Rory McIlroy here at the 2011 US Open and he trades at 15.00.
The Course - Congressional CC
In my opinion, the Blue Course is a track much like the test facing the players at Quail Hollow for the Wells Fargo Championship. Measuring circa 7,567 yards to a par of 71, only the South Course at Torrey Pines plays significantly longer outside of the majors. Similar in length, set-up and aesthetics to Quail Hollow, both tracks also favour a draw from the tee and require the same particular skill set.
The 2012 renewal here was hit by high winds and scoring was more difficult but length, especially, is a pre-requisite for this track, while a hot putter from the 15 foot range always helps.
Three from the pack
Looking at the stats, Hunter Mahan at 41.00 for the win or 9.00 to place wouldn't seem to hold much current form with no top 20s in his last ten appearances. But the tougher the course, the better for the American. Mahan started off pretty well at the Travelers championship last week before eventually missing the cut. Hunter is somewhat of a course specialist at Congressional though with an average finishing position of 7.5 up to last year (if we exclude the MC at the US Open in 2011). For me this comes back to Hunter's tee to green game where he ranks 10th in the all important total driving stat and he could bounce back to form here.
If we are going to go with the Quail Hollow link, then JB Holmes 46.00 or 10.00 is one to consider. He won there, but amazingly he did so having hit just 46% of fairways. Intriguingly, Holmes went on to hit 82% of fairways and 73% of greens at the St. Jude Classic and miss the cut. Holmes ranks 4th in driving distance and tends to excel around tracks that place an emphasis on a right to left shot shape - he's won twice at TPC Scottsdale. The big man found his touch again last time out with a top 20 at the US Open.
Sticking with the Total Driving theme - Nick Watney at 71.00 or 15.00 is a regular up the top of that particular stat, currently sitting in 8th position. What stands out for me about big hitting Watney is his performance at the Travelers last week: Nick propelled himself back into form - eventually carding a T11 finish - amassing a fairways hit total of a huge 84%. The American is obviously driving the ball superbly and has some Congressional course form behind him having posted a top 10 here in 2012.
The dominant themes of my Quicken Loans National preview are those of power with the big stick and a course correlation between Congressional and Quail Hollow; big event player Angel Cabrera 101.00 or 19.00 fits into both of these. At the Wells Fargo a couple of months back, the power hitter led after both 18 and 36 holes before losing interest, as he often can, but the big names in this field - including the returning Tiger Woods - should keep him focused, and the big Argentine tied 11th with Watney last week.
Bet on the Quicken Loans National now.