AT&T National preview

The PGA Tour travels to Maryland this week for the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Nick Watney is defending champion over the course where Rory McIlroy won the US Open in 2011.

Nick Watney defends AT&T National (Getty Images)

Lowdown: The PGA Tour travels to Maryland this week for the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Nick Watney is defending champion over the course where Rory McIlroy won the US Open in 2011.

Congressional Country Club was established in 1924 and some of the most prominent men in the USA at the time were founding members. They included: Calvin Coolidge, Woodrow Wilson, William Taft and William C. Carnegie.

The Blue Course was originally designed by Devereut Emmet in 1924 but was then redesigned by Rees Jones in 1989.

The layout has been used in numerous significant competitions over the years, including the US Open on three occasions, most recently in 2011. It also welcomed the PGA Championship of 1976. Congressional was the host venue for the AT&T National from 2007 to 2009. But after that event the course was closed as a complete greens renovation project commenced, to replace the Poa annua with bent grass.

In 2010 and 2011 the AT&T National was contested at Aronimink in Pennsylvania. Justin Rose and Nick Watney were the winners there. Last season, Watney closed with a 66 to finish two clear of K.J. Choi.

The last champion when this tournament was hosted at Congressional back in 2009 was a certain Tiger Woods. The former World Number 1 is in the field this week and will be considered the favourite.

When McIlroy won the US Open here in 2011, he did it by posting a record, four-round total of 16-under-par. Drier weather is forecast for this week which should mean the greens will be firmer and scoring is not expected to be as low as last June.

McIlroy isn't playing this week as he's over in Portrush for the Irish Open. In fact, most of the PGA Tour's European contingent has made the journey across the Atlantic this week. England's Brian Davis and Greg Owen and Scotland's Martin Laird will be the only European representatives at Congressional.

Venue: Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland Date: Jun 28 - Jul 1 Course stats: par 71, 7,574 yards Purse: $6,500,000 Winner: $1,170,000 Defending Champion: Nick Watney (-13)

TV Coverage: Thursday 28 - Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm Friday 29 - Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm Saturday 30 - Live on Sky Sports 1 from 6pm Sunday 1 - Live on Sky Sports 2 from 6pm

Player Watch: Hunter Mahan - He's enjoying a fantastic season on the PGA Tour and he arrives fresh off the back of his lowest ever round on the circuit. A closing 61 at the Travelers Championship lifted him from nowhere into a tie for 11th. He'll be full of confidence this week.

Brian Davis - The Englishman is a consistent performer in the US and is long overdue a victory. He was tied fourth last week at TPC River Highlands and could have won if he'd had a few breaks in the final round. It's that final round that Davis needs to work on, if he can get in position again and make a few birdies early on Sunday, he might finally get that win.

Tiger Woods - He's there or thereabouts at the moment and it looks like a few minor tweaks could see Woods back to his best. He's won twice already this year and was winner here in 2009.

Key hole: 18th. This is an incredibly tough finishing hole. In the 2011 US Open it offered up just 23 birdies over the four days. A 523 yard par 4, it requires two long and accurate shots. The drive must be played down the left side but the challenge really comes with the approach. Water waits in front, to the left and behind the green while a collection of bunkers protect the right side of the putting surface. Where next? European Tour - Irish Open preview

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?