Barker Davis of The Washington Times looks at the favorites at this week’s third edition of the AT&T National, which begins Thursday on Congressional’s famed 7,255-yard, par-70 Blue Course. Bodog provided the official odds.
Tiger Woods (3-2) - Golf’s crown prince rarely shows up at a nonmajor so intent on victory. One of the few things missing on his resume is a win in his own event, and he’s determined to rectify that this week. You can go ahead and pencil in his 19th consecutive top-10 finish in stroke-play starts, an absurd, career-best streak dating to the 2007 British Open. If he putts well this week, the rest of the field will be swinging for second.
Hunter Mahan (16-1) - You can’t call the man with the second shortest odds in the field a dark horse, but Mahan is the outsider pick to challenge Tiger for this week’s laurels. The 27-year-old is on a roll, following a tie for sixth in the U.S. Open by tying for fourth in Hartford last week. He’s too good to remain in the one-win category (2007 Travelers) much longer.
Jim Furyk (16-1) - Golf’s trebuchet is always a threat on firm, fast U.S. Openesque tracks like Congressional. He’s posted consecutive ties for third on Old Blue. He’s overdue for his first victory of the season. And he’s in top form, recording top-11 finishes in four of his last five starts. If Tiger stumbles, it could be Furyk’s week.
Paul Casey (22-1) - The only man on the planet with three professional victories this season, the 31-year-old is enjoying the best season of his promising career thanks to a suddenly solid short stick. Casey is one of only two players in the field (also Anthony Kim) who could overwhelm a top-shelf Tiger with a hail of birdies. If the course plays easier than expected, he’s definitely worth watching.
Sean O’Hair (22-1) - The steady O’Hair might be the strongest player in the field from tee to green, but he’s developed a nasty three-putt habit. Congressional’s greens are far from the game’s toughest set, but they might be a bit too firm and fast to suit his strengths.
Anthony Kim (22-1) - After a season sidetracked thus far by an almost comical assortment of minor injuries and ailments, the defending champion finally feels healthy and finds his game rounding into shape. Kim comes to Congressional off his strongest back-to-back finishes all season (a tie for 16th at U.S. Open and a tie for 11th at Travelers). If he drives it in the fairway this week, the key to last year’s conquest but a weakness this season, Kim definitely has the firepower to take down Tiger.
Mike Weir (25-1) - Next. The Canadian lefty has won just once since the start of 2005, but a pair of consecutive 10th-place ties (Memorial, U.S. Open) has pushed him onto the tote board. Unless conditions yield a U.S. Open-style carnage and a winner at 4 under, Weir not buying mini-Mike.
Robert Allenby (28-1) - The Aussie has been on the leader board in the last three events held at Congressional, dating to a tie for 13th at the 2005 Booz Allen Classic. It’s hard to figure out why, given that Allenby usually plays his best golf on TPC-type tracks, not traditional gems like Old Blue. Perhaps he’ll make another brief appearance, but sooner or later he’ll impale himself on his putter.