Quicken Loans National
Congressional Country Club
Congressional Blue Course
Par: 71 (36-35)
Greens: Bentgrass; 5,500 square feet on average.
Rough: 3” fescue
Water Hazards: 5
Course Architect: Devereux Emmet (1924)
Winner’s Share: $1,170,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Bill Haas defeated Roberto Castro by three shots to win for the fifth time on TOUR.
Dates: June 26-29
Notes: 120 players will be cut to the top 70 and ties.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 23 of 32 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane and Kevin Streelman have won for the USA.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Matsuyama joins Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer has been a one-man-gang for Europe with his two massive victories.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd and Matsuyama are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had nine in 30 events so far in 2014.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33) and Ben Crane (38) have added to the prime-timers trophy case.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden, 42, won at Tampa Bay for the only W for the “Old Guys” this season.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE!
Quicken Loans National (QLN) replaced The International on the TOUR schedule in 2007.
Congressional Country Club (CCC) has hosted the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2013 events.
Aronomink hosted the 2010 and 2011 editions as CCC was preparing to host the 2011 U.S. Open.
The first three years of this tournament were played on Poa annua greens. They were replaced for the 2011 U.S. Open.
The U.S. Open also saw multiple changes come to the Blue Course which included rerouting of holes. Course history for me this week starts in 2011 and ends in 2013. Putting on Poa annua versus Bentgrass is night and day. Remember, the U.S. Open set up also had graduated rough and weather issues so don’t put all the eggs in that basket either.
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer are the only players on TOUR with multiple victories in the 2013-14. Only Patrick Reed has a chance to match Walker on three wins this week.
This Will Win You a Bar Bet
Anthony Kim won for the second time in his career here in 2008. #missingman At the time, he was only the second player under 25 to have two wins since Woods in 2000.
Past Champions Since 2007
2007: K.J. Choi -13
2008: Anthony Kim -16*
2009: Tiger Woods -17
2010: Justin Rose**
2011: Nick Watney**
2012: Tiger Woods -8
2013: Bill Haas -12
* Not entered
** Tournament was played at Aronomink outside Philadelphia, not at CCC
Inside the Ropes
Established in the early 20’s, CCC has seen its fair share of big-time tournaments, including the U.S. Junior Amateur, Women’s Amateur, U.S. Senior Open, 1976 PGA Championship, three U.S. Opens (1964-Venturi; 1997-Els and 2011-McIlroy) and was home to the Kemper Open from 1980-1986.
Playing at almost 7,600 yards, only Torrey Pines can claim to have more distance on the card in 2014. So far. Usually when the TOUR plays on massive, classic courses like this, the ultra-talented and ultra-experienced pro comes out on top and Congressional has been no different as shown by the winners above.
This week, another wrinkle will be added to the monster at hand as Tiger Woods returns to the fold for the first time since having back surgery. If he’s not able to hit full shots his short game is going to have to be sharp. Congressional constantly ranks in the top 10 hardest courses played on TOUR and the last three events here, 2011 U.S. Open and the last two QLN have proven that theory correct.
The major issues the TOUR pros will be facing this week are very slick Bentgrass greens, lush rough surrounding the greens and bordering the fairways and the sheer length of the tee. Bill Haas wasn’t all that bothered last year as he racked up TWENTY FIVE birdies to win by three shots (-12). This also means he took time to card plenty of bogeys and a triple. But, Haas was the only player to finish on double-digits under par. Tiger Woods won the previous edition on eight-under. Yikes.
There will be value in players who can get up-and-down this week. There will also be value in players who can smash it down the fairway and shorten the course. There is also value in players who enjoy putting slick, Bentgrass greens. Tiger Woods is known for having one of the best short-games in history and it’s no wonder why he’s picked this course to host his tournament. There were only EIGHT bogey-free rounds here last year. #grinding
Since there isn’t much course history to lean on, I’ll be taking a look at players who have played the tougher courses on TOUR well and whose current form is deserving of a look.
Call to Order
Here they are, ranked for your pleasure.
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Jason Day (B): Another very solid showing last week at the Travelers (T18) which included improvement Thursday to Sunday (70-69-67-65) puts him on the top of the heap this week. A long, demanding golf course with slick greens and difficult chipping should have Day licking his chops. We all know he shot eight-under here at the 2011 U.S. Open to finish second and he’s been T8 and T21 in the last two QLN.
Jordan Spieth (B): He’s made 16 of 18 cuts this season and 14 of them have gone for T25 or better. He’s played the last seven weekends that he’s teed it up and has exactly ONE finish worse than T19. He was solo sixth last year as he put three of four rounds under par. Similar to Day, he’s nasty on and around the greens. #SpiethBoner
Brendon Todd (C): He was one of three players to play three of four rounds under par at Pinehurst No. 2 but he might slip through the cracks because of his T17 finish. THAT’S REALLY GOOD IN THE U.S. Open people! Todd has exactly ONE round, 79 at Pinehurst, over par in his 16 rounds. He hit the top 10 at Valero and Memorial, two other, long, difficult courses already this season. His short game might be the best of the top three and that’s saying something!
Keegan Bradley (B): It might not all be clicking on the proper cylinders but Bradley has been showing flashes that it’s close to coming all together. He put three rounds under par at Pinehurst, and like Todd, had a bad Saturday (76). He rallied for 67, on that course, on Sunday to finish T4. He has plenty of length and his short game is excellent as well.
Justin Rose (B): He hasn’t finished outside of the top 12 in four of the five events he made the cut since his T14 at Augusta. His T12 last time out at Pinehurst confirms that his game is in excellent shape. His only MC was at Memorial when he called a penalty on himself to miss the weekend by a shot.
Billy Horschel (B): I’ve been buying Horschel for the last month as his ball-striking has been lights-out. I also love the fact that he battled back twice from big rounds at Pinehurst with 68 on Friday and 70 on Sunday to finish T23. He built that off T16 at Memorial and T6 at Memphis so I’m not abandoning ship now.
Brandt Snedeker (A): The last three weeks Snedeker has been in “The Man with His Own Section”, “Fades” and now “Call to Order”. He ground out T8 even though his back gave out in the final round at Pinehurst. After not exactly knowing what the problem was, I wanted no part of him last week at the Travelers. He backed up his U.S. Open performance with bookends of 65-64 to finish T11. The part I like about the T11 was it was across the board, just not a hot putter. That balance tells me that he should be back on the radar. It doesn’t hurt that he played all four rounds here last summer at par or better as he finished T8.
Bill Haas (B): The 2012 has made 17 of 18 cuts this season and 11 have gone for top 25s. He made 25 birdies here last year in his first time around the “new” CCC. I believe this course is exactly what Haas needs to jump-start a rather quiet 2014.
Gary Woodland (A): Similar to Haas, his excellent ball-striking leads to plenty of chances on the greens. He’s played 15 straight weekends where he’s teed it up and feasts on par fours. He was T10 heading into the weekend last year but stalled out to finish T16.
K.J. Choi (C): He closed with 65 at THE PLAYERS. He closed with 68 at the Memorial. He closed last week with 67 at the Travelers. Those are his last three starts on TOUR. That’s a player in form, folks. His only success at CCC is his win in 2007 but he’s tamed Torrey Pines (T2), another monster, earlier this season.
Ryan Palmer (C): He had heavy interest from gamers in Memphis but only scratched out T32. This week, he’ll fly beneath the radar but he’s 17th in ball-striking and he destroys the par fours. He’s also fifth in the all-around ranking so he’s hardly a one-trick pony. He was T15 in 2012 and T31 last year and has four rounds at par or better and four rounds over par.
Brendan Steele (C): He ground out 66 in the third round last year and finished T16. He’s coming off T5 last week at the Travelers as his new standard sized putter opened with 62 and closed with 66. He’s 19th in the all-around and is 19th in par-four performance. I bet he finishes T19.
Charley Hoffman (C): His T22 and T28 over the last two seasons shows me that CCC fits Hoffman’s eye. He can get it out there off the tee and he’s seventh in GIR. It’s probably why he also chews up and spits out par fours as well. He also leads the TOUR in GIR from other than the fairway.
Webb Simpson (B): I’m going to give him a pass on the U.S. Open, as should all gamers with guys who didn’t play their best. It’s a major. It’s a different story all together. His last regular TOUR event he closed 66-69-66 for T3 in Memphis. Simpson sits ninth in strokes gained-putting and 16th in the overall so I will not be surprised when he pops this week.
Carl Pettersson: Impossible to ignore after back-to-back T3-T7 finishes but I’m not crazy about him and the long putter on slick greens. He’ll hit about all of them so he’ll have plenty of chances but it is his first time around CCC.
Martin Flores: I always like a guy who can hit it a mile and putt and Flores checks both of those boxes. It doesn’t hurt that he’s made eight cuts in a row on TOUR and has finished T34 and T21 in his last two at CCC.
J.B. Holmes: He was the rare exception to the rule that states a guy can NOT find his game the week of the U.S. Open. After MC-T75-MC, Holmes finished T17 at Pinehurst. Wells Fargo was long, strong and green and he won there.
Marc Leishman: The Aussie has played on the weekend in his last five and four of those finishes have been T23 or better and two of them have been T11 or better. He closed 65-67 last week at the Travelers to continue that positive momentum.
Nick Watney: I was torn between putting him in here or in the next category but I liked the fact that he only made five bogeys in his last three rounds at the Travelers. He also was third in fairways last week so if he keeps that going, watch out. The putter has been the club holding him back and he was T12 SGP last week. After T10 in 2012 he suddenly looks like he could fit this week in deeper formats.
Ernie Els: He’s only in the preview column on hard courses that require very solid ball-striking. He’s played this layout more than anyone and knows what it takes to get around.
Matt Every: Along with Snedeker, these are the two guys who are probably the most excited to see slick greens this week. Every is third in SGP and 10th in total putting and sits 41st in scrambling. After a quiet May, Every finished T3 in Memphis before MC at the U.S. Open.
Brendon de Jonge: He was right in the fight on Sunday, seven-under, in 2012 before a final round 77 derailed his chances. If gamers had a dollar for every time that was written…
Freddie Jacobson: I’ve riding this Saab for quite a while as he’s only MC once since March. His fantastic short game is the reason he keeps hanging around leader boards and he should enjoy difficult conditions in and around the greens this week where par is a good score.
Aaron Baddeley: He played himself into the column this week for the RIGHT reasons. The Aussie has been struggling with adapting his new swing but the results have turned in a positive direction. His last four finishes on TOUR have been T51, T37, T23 and fourth last week. This week will put his new swing to the test but his awesome short-game will continue to be his insurance policy.
Long Shots/Sleepers/Course Horses
Stewart Cink: In his only eight rounds at CCC he’s fired five of them UNDER par. He was T22 in 2012 and fifth last year so another example that ball-strikers fare well in these parts. He’s made nine cuts on the bounce so he covers ALL of the above!
Bud Cauley: With finishes of T21, WD and T11 in his last three, the former Crimson Tide player is showing flashes of his rookie year from 2012. He opened with 63 last week on the back of solid ball-striking and decent putting.
Billy Hurley III: The U.S. Naval grad has played a few rounds on this track so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in the top 20 come Sunday. He’s played here once and finished T4 in 2012, his best-ever finish on TOUR . He’ll have the backing of a hometown hero and he’s made seven of his last eight cuts.
James Driscoll: Another with Virginia ties, Driscoll went to UVA and was right in the thick of it last year (-7) before 74 on Sunday knocked him back to T8. Driscoll makes his money around the greens so it’s hardly a surprise he contended here last year. It will be a surprise if he does this year because he’s missed seven of his last eight cuts and his only finish is T64. There’s yer longshot, folks.
Ben Martin: The No. 1 player in the all-around category last year on the Web.com Tour is taking full advantage in his second go-around on TOUR this year. He currently sits 28th on the all-around and has made six cuts on the trot. He’s also in the top 25 in par-four performance. Shhhhhhhhhhh.
Kevin Chappell: He is most remembered for finishing in the top 10 in back-to-back U.S. Opens over the few years and one of those was T3 at Congressional in 2011. Chappell has the tools to play difficult courses but gamers are having hard time “timing” just when he’s going to show up. After opening up with 66 last week, they were happy. After his second round of 75 to MC, they were not. I’m taking the optimist route this week but hardly putting him first in the batting order.
Camilo Villegas: Fired all four rounds of par of better last year to finish T16. June has seen him play all three weekends he was entered after o-fer in May.
Stuart Appleby: Here’s a steady option to round off a roster this week as Appleby has been solid on and around the greens this season. His T18 last week at the Travelers saw him finish T14 in fairways, T25 GIR and fourth in SGP. He only made two bogeys on the weekend as well as he closed 68-64. I like hot golf.
Andrew Svoboda: I’m not letting one bad round get in the way here! He opened with 67 and closed with 66 last week but it was the 77 on Saturday that sunk any chance of a respectable finish. He’s currently 11th in ball-striking on TOUR.
Scott Stallings: Here’s your grand-slam, walk-off, game-seven winner for the week. He navigated a long and demanding Torrey Pines to win earlier this year. The bad news is he hasn’t had better than T32 since. The good news it was his last time out.
Every week in this column I break somebody out of a funk. Last week, it was Harris English who returned to the top 10 after doing absolutely nothing since March. #yerWelcome
Roberto Castro: He was T3 in SGP here last year. He was 164th in SGP putting in 2013. #Anomaly
Jason Dufner: If these greens push into the 14+’ range, he’ll have to have some week with the flat stick to contend.
Angel Cabrera: Props to El Pato for almost bagging his first top 10 (T11) in some time last week. It’s going to take more than one performance to convince me that his shoulder is fine and he’s worth taking another look at moving forward.
The Man with His Own Column
Tiger Woods: Yep, you guessed it! Sure it’s his tournament but I’m not running to the front of the line screaming “he’s back, he’s back!”
Returning from injury in the past Woods has finished T17 at WGC-Match Play (won one match) in 2009 after missing almost nine months. He missed over five months before finishing T4 at the Masters in 2010, a course he tends to like a bit. He missed four months before returning to Firestone and the WGC in August of 2011, another course he just dominates, and finished T37. After missing seven weeks in later that he teed it up at CordeValle and finished T30. He had never played that course before. CCC sets up as a grinder’s paradise that won’t need 20-something birdies to be in contention on Sunday and Woods can grind with the best of them. Since gamers should have plenty of starts left on Woods, it will be interesting to see just how many actually pull the trigger this week.
If he’s healthy, he will play The Open, WGC-BI, PGA and all four FedExCup Playoff events. The rub is that he will have to qualify for the four FedExCup events through his performances at QLN, The Open, WGC-BI and PGA. He’s going to need a podium finish or two to jump into the top 125. Funnily enough, if he wins this week, he’ll have 543 FEC points. Phil Mickelson currently has 488.
The pressure is clearly on Woods, if this remains his schedule. The pressure is clearly on Woods’ game and back to hold up to contend in the final two majors, make the FEC Playoffs and represent his country in the Ryder Cup. If anything, it’s going to be fantastic theatre.
Stay tuned for Playing the Tips to see if he makes my lineup! #teaser
Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week
The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.
Frys.com: Hideki Matsuyama, T3; Brooks Koepka, T3; Max Homa, T9.
SHCO: Ryo Ishikawa is only 22, don’t forget, T2; Chesson Hadley, T5.
CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!
WGC-HSBC: Jordan Spieth was 17th. Tommy Fleetwood (T18) is only 22 and plays in Europe. Matsuyama WD with a bad back.
McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek
OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.
HTOC: Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.
Sony: Hudson Swafford and Will Wilcox both finished T8. Both played on the Web.com Tour last year and are rookies on TOUR this season.
Humana: Patrick Reed won. He’s 23. You need to pay attention.
FIO: Ryo Ishikawa, 22, bagged another top 10 finish. That’s his sixth in his last 10 events on TOUR or the Web.com Tour. He’s an alternate this week as of Monday afternoon.
WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama is 21. In 11 events the last two years, he’s hit the top 25 in NINE of them, including T4 last week. #ALLRIGHTYTHEN
Pebble Beach: Er, Jordan Spieth, T4. Patrick Reed, 23, finished T13 and he’s won twice since August. Golf is good hands, again.
Riviera: Harris English won’t be 25 until July. He was T10; Spieth was T12.
WGC-Match Play: Victor Dubuisson is 23 and was second. Jordan Spieth was T5. #youthmovement
Honda: Russell Henley is now the fourth player on TOUR under 25 with two wins. He joins Patrick Reed, Harris English and Rory McIlroy in this very elite club of pups.
WGC-CC: Patrick Reed is 23. He’s now won three times in eight months on TOUR.
Puerto Rico Open: Rookie Chesson Hadley, 26, took home his first title on the big boy circuit.
Valspar: Chesson Hadley backed up his first win with T14 on a tough, tough Copperhead Course. Scott Langley, a second year player from Illinois (see above) was third.
API: The young Japanese lad Ishikawa racked up another top 10 (T8) this week. Yep, he’s still just 22.
Valero: He’ll be remembered for all of the wrong reasons but Andrew Loupe, 25, finished T4 in only his eighth start on TOUR. #slowgolfclap
Shell Houston: Russell Henley’s T7 shows him heating up before heading back for another crack at Augusta.
Masters: That Jordan Spieth guy was T2.
RBC Heritage: John Huh, T3, is a TOUR winner but is only 23 years old. Remember?
Zurich: The winner was 22-year old Seung-Yul Noh. He fits this column to a T.
Wells Fargo: Defending champ Derek Ernst was T30. He’ll turn 24 on May 15.
THE PLAYERS: That pesky Spieth was tied for the 54-hole lead and finished T4.
HPBNC: T16 was the best the youth could muster with John Huh, who turns 24 on Wednesday.
Colonial: Second-year player David Lingmerth poked his head up again with T5 to lead the youngsters. Hideki Matsuyama, who co-led after 54-holes, finished T10.
Memorial: Matsuyama must be a quick study. He was the 54-hole leader at Colonial yet finished T10. He took it deep this week with his first victory on TOUR, in a playoff, nonetheless. #impressive
FESJC: Brooks Koepka continues to rack up non-Member points and his T19 this week added to that.
U.S. Open: For the second consecutive week Koepka has the spotlight and deservedly so after T4. With Matsuyama, Spieth and Koepka, the future looks quite bright for the TOUR.
Travelers: Bud Cauley (remember him?) and Scott Langley were T11. Langley held the 36-hole lead.
Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 6ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON p.m. ET. We will be breaking down the field at the QLN and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.