No matter if the world’s #1 played is not 100% on task as far his game is concerned, the mere presence of Tiger Woods changes the look and feel of any PGA Tour event. Of course, he is the defending champion this week, and at a new venue as well – giving everybody a lot to talk about.
Suburban Philadelphia and the Aronimink Country Club is playing host to the AT&T National for the next couple years in place of Washington-area’s Congressional Country Club where preparations are well underway for the 2011 United States Open.
The AT&T National title was just one of 6 titles Tiger captured in 2009 but this year the 14-time major winner has just two top ten’s in five PGA Tour starts – both in major championships at The Masters and the U.S. Open.
While he is busy defending this week against a bevy of talented tour players, all the golfers will face the challenge of playing a layout many have not had the pleasure to play previously.
In their chase for the winner’s $1.16 Million share of the $6.2 million purse they will have to navigate a course that players are learning to love very quickly. The initial response form them this week has been nothing but positive.
Originally a Donald Ross design brought to life in 1928, Aronimink was reshaped in 1998 by Pete Dye and Bobby Weed. Prior to that time it had been host to such prestigious events as the 1962 PGA Championship, 1977 US Amateur, and 1997 US Junior Amateur. In 2003 it hosted the Senior PGA Championship. That same year Ron Prichard, a noted golf architect from the Philadelphia area and the foremost authority on Donald Ross’ design philosophy, completed a 3-year restoration project at Aronimink that recaptured classic Ross features that had been diminished or lost over time. Panoramic views were restored to their original shapes and sizes, and his unique bunkering style was recaptured. Length was added to neutralize the effect technology has had on golf and bring Ross’ unique design features back into play. The result was the par 70, 6,955-yard test the players will face this week.
Some players will not have to acquaint themselves too much with Aronimink, Sean O’Hair is actually a member at the club and that will play into his hands this week. The 3-time PGA Tour winner has just one top-ten finish this season but within his 12 cuts made he has been in the top 25 eight times. There would be no better place to return to the winner’s circle than in his adopted hometown event.
Another player with a Pennsylvania tie is Jim Furyk. Furyk, already a two-time winner in 2010 is the 2nd highest ranked player in the field after the defending champion, Woods. Watch for Furyk to thrill the Keystone Crowd with the big tour making its first return to the state since the 2006 84 Lumber Classic.
Also lurking this week will be Dustin Johnson, playing his first PGA Tour round since his dramatic collapse on the final day at the U.S. Open. In the same redemption ode will be Justin Rose, playing the AT&T and trying to recover from the 3-shot final round lead he squandered last week at the Travelers Championship.
Familiar faces, including the world #1, with a brand new course should make for a tournament worth watching.