The PGA Tour travels to Maryland this week for the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda. Tiger Woods won here last year but won’t defend his title due to an injured elbow.

With Woods missing, the tournament is looking wide open with many of the PGA Tour’s best players hoping to step in and claim victory over this challenging course.

Last season, Congressional was the toughest track on the PGA Tour outside of the Majors. As you would expect from a former U.S. Open venue, a premium is placed on ball striking and accuracy.

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 U.S. Open on three occasions, most recently in 2011, an event won by Rory McIlroy.

The track 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 year the tournament returned to Congressional and Tiger Woods claimed the title for a second time. He finished two clear of Bo Van Pelt.

As always at this time of year in the US, there’s a chance of inclement weather during the tournament so be prepared for delays.

Venue: Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland
Date: Jun 27-30
Course stats: par 71, 7,569 yards
Purse: $6,500,000 Winner: $1,170,000
Defending Champion: Tiger Woods (-8, not defending)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 27 – Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Friday 28 – Sky Sports 4 from 8pm
Saturday 29 – Sky Sports 2 from 6pm
Sunday 30 – Sky Sports 1 from 6pm

Player Watch:

Brandt Snedeker – His game is ideally suited to this challenging course. He was tied 17th at this year’s U.S. Open and he has two previous top-10 finishes in this event.

Graham Delaet – The Canadian finished third last week in Connecticut. He’s one of the circuit’s best ball-strikers so should be able to deal with the test posed by Congressional.

Kevin Chappell – He was second four weeks ago at Muirfield Village and was tied third in the U.S. Open when it visited Congressional in 2011. An outside chance this week.

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