- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Organizers of the AT&T National earned positive reviews for putting together last year’s tournament in 112 days. Now golf fans in the District will have a chance to see what they can do with an additional eight months to plan.

“Last year … the staff was stressed,” tournament host and top-ranked golfer Tiger Woods said during an appearance yesterday to discuss the July 1-6 event. “Everyone was stressed. They had 112 days to put on an event and then pull together … everyone from the communities. It was just - everyone was running up against a deadline. Everyone was working countless hours around the clock. Everyone was just, yeah, zombies walking around here by the end of the tournament.”

The inaugural AT&T National was announced in March 2007, less than four months before play began. Despite the short lead-up, the tournament topped more than 100,000 spectators for the week and raised thousands of dollars for the Tiger Woods Foundation, plus $500,000 for local charities.

This year, with more time leading up to the tournament, organizers have nailed down two additional sponsors - CDW and Chevron - and have sold out nearly all premium hospitality areas.

Meanwhile, the tournament has gained commitments from more than a dozen golfers, including defending champion K.J. Choi, Adam Scott, Boo Weekley, Fred Funk and Jim Furyk. Other top golfers are expected to accept invitations in the coming weeks.

“This year we’ve had a full year … and it helps when you have a full 12 months,” Woods said. “Now we have that. With everyone here in the community, as excited as they were last year about coming back and having this event here this year, it makes things so much easier.”

Congressional Country Club will serve as the tournament venue this year and in 2009. But Woods and his foundation are seeking a temporary replacement venue for 2010 and 2011 because the club plans to be the host of the 2011 U.S. Open.

The PGA Tour is spending more than $25 million to upgrade TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms, possibly to play host to the tournament in the interim years. But Woods has been noncommittal about Avenel; he never played there when it served as the host of PGA Tour events in the past and has yet to visit the course while it’s undergoing renovation.

Other courses in the D.C. area, including Robert Trent Jones Golf Club and Landsdowne Resort, have been rumored as possible replacement venues, along with courses in the Philadelphia area, such as Merion Golf Club. But Woods offered no clues.

“As far as other venues, we are looking at anything and everything right now,” he said.

Woods and the foundation again are planning a tie-in with members of the U.S. military by offering 30,000 free tickets to active servicemen and women. Organizers also have arranged for service members at bases around the world to hit ceremonial tee shots to be broadcast by the Pentagon Channel. At least two of the balls from those tee shots will be returned to the tournament, and children of service members will use the balls to hit another ceremonial tee shot with Woods.

“I think that people don’t realize the dedication men and women are doing and what we receive,” Woods said. “We want to say thank you. They don’t get enough thanks. They put their lives on the line. We want to say thank you however we can.”

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