The PGA Tour heads to Pennsylvania for the AT&T National at the Donald Ross-designed Aronimik Golf Club. The par-70 7,250-yard venue hosts the event for only the second year, and last year the event was won by England’s Justin Rose.
The field has attracted a strong typically lineup which includes 11 Major champions, while Aronimik was voted fourth toughest course on the PGA Tour in 2010 meaning that avoiding mistakes will prove just as valuable as birdies this week.
The first name for the shortlist is last year’s runner-up, Ryan Moore who pegged back Justin Rose to just one shot in 2010 after the Englishman had led by five heading into the final nine.
Moore has an affinity with Donald Ross-designed courses and his runners-up finish in last week’s Travelers Championship could provide the springboard to see him go one better this week. He might well have taken the Travelers Championship to a play-off had he not missed a four-footer on the 18th hole, and providing that doesn’t weigh too heavily on his mind he could go close at 22/1. That said, Moore himself didn’t think he would even be in contention before weekend rounds of 64-63 shunted him up the leaderboard.
Moore’s only previous PGA Tour win has come at Sedgefield – also a Donald Ross design – back in 2009 so the stage could well be set for a big performance.
Nick Watney has posted ten top-25 finishes in 13 outings in 2011 – 7 have been top-10s – and he should give another good account. He shrugged off the disappointment of a missed cut in the US Open at Congressional to post a tied-13th finish in the Travelers Championship last week, although that finish could be classed slightly disappointing given he opened 65-65.
Watney posted a T7 in this event last year – his best finish in three attempts, so given that he is in in generally good form for the season, he should be competitive at odds of 14/1.
Defending champion Justin Rose seems a shadow of the player that won twice on the PGA Tour in 2010 and needs to perform better than he has done to date in 2011 if he is to mount a serious defence of his title at odds of 40/1.
Rose overcame a late wobble to hold off Ryan Moore last year but had come into this tournament on the back of a win and a T9 in his previous two events. It’s an altogether different story this time around and Rose hasn’t finished better than T28 since he finished T11 in the US Masters, including three missed cuts – the last of which was in the US Open.
Jeff Overton was a column regular in 2010 in PGA Tour events, and his consistency was rewarded with a place on the American Ryder Cup team. However, 2011 has been less kind to the excitable Overton and like Rose, he has seemed out-of-sorts.
Although Overton has made 14 of 16 cuts this season, he has only reached the top-10 twice with a T6 his best finish; that came back in March in the Honda Classic, and while he is still chasing a first win on the Tour he needs to step up a gear if he is to do so. But if he is to bounce back to form, then Aronimik could be the place that serves as a catalyst.
Overton’s form at Aronimik has seen him twice inside the top-10 either side of a withdrawal in 2009. In 2008 he finished T9 before finishing in sole 3rd last year and if he can recapture that form – he shot all four rounds in the 60s – then the 50/1 is generous odds.
Ricky Barnes often features prominently over par-70 venues and tough courses such as Aronimik should bring out the best of him. Barnes hasn’t had his troubles to seek on the putting surface in 2011 and has largely struggled with the putter. To my eye however that has skewed Barnes’ results somewhat and he has played as well as anyone from tee-to-green.
In 14 events Barnes has missed the cut 5 times with his best finish being 4th – a position he has occupied twice in 2011. A recent charity shootout saw Barnes card rounds of 59-62 and he followed up with three rounds in the 60s last week in the Travelers Championship en-route to a T43 finish. He did, however, top the Greens in Regulation stat last week which if he can repeat will stand him in good stead this week, and if he can find some form with the putter then the 66/1 represents excellent value.
Selection: Ryan Moore
Savers: Jeff Overton, Ricky Barnes