After a two-year absence to make way for the U.S. Open, the AT&T National returns to Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., this week. The event was held the last two years at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa.
Host Tiger Woods, who won the 2009 tournament at Congressional, heads a strong field that includes defending champion Nick Watney and 2007 winner and 2011 runner-up K.J. Choi. Nine players with 2012 victories will compete in the $6.5 million event that annually pays tribute to the men and women serving in the U.S. military. Proceeds benefit the college-access programs of the Tiger Woods Foundation and local youth organizations.
Woods, who is coming off a tie for 21st at the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, spent most of last week hanging out with his two children. Admittedly, he didn't practice much but is looking forward to playing this week.
"That's one of the reasons I don't play that much is to make sure that I'm focused, I'm excited, I'm ready, physically fit and mentally ready to play," he said Tuesday. "If I played 30 times a year, I don't think I would be as ready as I am each and every week I tee it up. And when I think of how my career has turned out, I think I've done the right thing."
Woods was in contention at Olympic after two rounds, but poor starts on Saturday and Sunday hurt his cause.
"It was just one of those weekends where I didn't quite get everything out of my rounds," he said. "I was so close on Saturday to getting a good round out of it, and I didn't. It's just one of those things where a fraction off, particularly that U.S. Open venue, balls that land in the fairway don't stay in the fairway, and I kept hitting the edge of the fairways and going into the rough. It showed up Saturday and the beginning of Sunday, for sure. But I got it back towards the end of it, played 3-under coming in, and that was something positive."
Tiger, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, will be looking for improvement in his short game this week.
"I didn't particularly chip or putt well that week, something I had done at Memorial," he said. "I didn't make anything from 15 or 20 feet. I made a bunch of putts from eight to 10 feet and in, but I didn't make any other putts."
Woods, who ranks second on the PGA Tour in scoring at 69.28, played conservatively at Olympic, sacrificing distance off the tee for position. Look for him to be more aggressive at Congressional.
"My game plan worked for the first couple of days," Woods said. "I was playing away from a lot of flags, lag putting, but I didn't make anything. I need to hit the ball a little bit closer than I did that week."
Asked if he had ever considered using a long putter, Woods said he hadn't.
"I've tried it, and my stroke is infinitely worse," he said. "It's just not good. I like the flow of my stroke. I like how I putt. Putting with anchoring or even different configurations of a standard grip, my stroke doesn't flow at all. I think I've done all right with mine, and I think I'm going to stick with it."
Woods begins first-round play Thursday at 12:50 p.m. ET off the first tee with Watney and Choi.