Quicken Loans National 2014: A preview and best bets for this week's event at Congressional
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 24/06/14 11:10pm
After a three-and-a-half month absence, Tiger Woods makes his return to golf in this week's PGA Tour event at Congressional.
The Quicken Loans National - previously known as the AT&T National - was always a likely event for Tiger to dip his toe back into competitive action as it raises money for his charity foundation.
Now the world No 5, Tiger has only played four events in 2014. He missed the cut at Torrey Pines, was 41st in the Dubai Desert Classic, withdrew from the Honda Classic in the final round due to his back and was tied 25th in the Cadillac Championship where he limped home in 78 after carding a 66 in round three.
There was a time when Woods wouldn't dare admit he'd tee it up in a tournament and not really be expecting to win. But injuries have taken their toll down the years and a sense of realism has kicked in.
Woods had back surgery on 31 March and admits: "I will be a bit rusty but I want to play myself back into competitive shape."
That suggests Woods has his real focus on next month's Open Championship at Hoylake where he won the last of his three Claret Jugs in 2006.
Nevertheless, the idea of not automatically making Woods favourite for any tournament is still hard to come to terms with and Sky Bet initially put him in as the co-14/1 favourite with Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose.
Those odds have since changed with Woods drifting to 16/1 after being shunned by punters and Day cut to 12/1 favourite.
Day was second in the 2011 US Open played here and also eighth on this track in 2012 and tied 21st last year. He's coming off a fourth at Pinehurst and an 18th in the Travelers Championship.
Spieth, who finished 17th in the US Open on his last start, was sixth in this tournament 12 months ago while Rose was 12th at Pinehurst and has a best here of tied 16th in 2009.
This is the eighth running of the tournament and five have been held at Congressional's historic Blue Course. The champions and winning scores at this venue were: Bill Haas (-12, 2013), Tiger Woods (-8, 2012), Tiger Woods (-13, 2009), Anthony Kim (-12, 2008), KJ Choi (-9, 2007). Founded in 1924, Congressional was also the venue when Rory McIlroy blitzed the field by eight shots in the 2011 US Open. Rory won with -16 with Jason Day runner-up on -8. It's a par 71 measuring in at a lengthy 7,569 yards. The rough is definitely a factor too so wayward driving could be costly. Last year's winner Bill Haas had strong ball-striking and putting stats so this is an all-round test of a player's game.
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Brendon Todd looked set to be Martin Kaymer's biggest threat going into the weekend of the US Open but playing alongside the German in the final group at Pinehurst No 2 he found the spotlight too much.
The difficult course exaggerated his problems and he crashed out of contention with a 79.
However, Todd bounced back with a 69 in the final two rounds to add to his 69-67 start and finished tied 17th.
Add that to his previous three starts which produced a win in the Byron Nelson, a fifth at Colonial and an eighth at Memorial and it's clear he's one of the Tour's in-form players.
At Congressional, he made the cut on debut in 2012 and was a very decent tied 13th last year so back him at 33/1.
Billy Horschel posted his second successive US Open top 25 on his most recent start and his last four tournaments show finishes of 23-6-15-26. In other words, he looks close to a big week.
Congressional, as a recent US Open track with testing rough, looks a good fit for Horschel, who is fifth in Ball Striking, sixth in Greens In Regulation and 21st in Total Driving.
"This course just fits my eye off the tee," said Horschel last year and although he finished down the field it's clearly a venue he likes so back him each-way at 40/1.
Ben Martin has some solid stats this year (25th Total Driving, 29th Ball Striking) and has twice made the top three (Puerto Rico Open and RBC Heritage).
The 26-year-old's form figures for his last six starts read: 3-15-50-21-49-13 and he's a player full of confidence.
Add him in each-way at 66/1.
At the front of the market, Day and Spieth should go well but between them they've managed just two strokeplay wins so their prices look short enough.
For Tiger backers who can't quite see him winning, other options include 7/2 for a top five, 13/8 for a top 10 and 4/6 for a top 20.
2pts e.w. Brendon Todd at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
2pts e.w. Billy Horschel at 40/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Ben Martin at 66/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)