Tiger Woods is out for the rest of the year after surgery on his left knee. Adam Scott is still trying to recover from a broken pinky on his right hand that limited him at Torrey Pines. Vijay Singh injured his ribs in Europe a month ago and has gone to Hawaii for some rest before the British Open. Former Masters champion Zach Johnson is nursing a sore elbow.
The result is what appears to be a mediocre field in the AT&T National.
PGA TOUR events that Woods typically doesnt play often get criticized for being meaningless, so its no small coincidence that it would happen at his own tournament.
Defending champion K.J. Choi and runner-up Steve Stricker are the only two players from the top 10 in the world ranking. There are only five of the top 20, adding Jim Furyk, Masters champion Trevor Immelman and Anthony Kim.
A good field, very deep, Woods said in a conference call earlier this week.
The second edition of the AT&T National begins Thursday on a Blue Course at Congressional that players have raved about this week, a change from complaints of bumpy putting surfaces a year ago.
But is it a good field? A deep one?
Using the FedExCup standings that only measures this years performance, there are 10 of the top 20 players, which adds tour winners such as Ryuji Imada, J.B. Holmes and D.J. Trahan.
None of this matters to Paul Goydos, who missed the tournament last year and claimed one similarity with Woods.
Hes played half of them, as many as I have, Goydos said.
Goydos blamed the media, and he was half-serious.
The media is trying to decide whats a good field and whats a bad field, and I dont think they are very good at deciding that, he said Wednesday. I think we have these arbitrary rankings, and those are very good at identifying the best couple of players, and maybe the next 10. But are they good at identifying the next 90? In my opinion, no.
TOUR (qualifying) school has got a great field. Its just we had never heard of Anthony Kim. The reality is there are not any bad fields. Its just a field that hasnt been known as strong yet.
There are still spots in the British Open up for grabs this week, still plenty of money from the $6 million purse. And for those who feel as if they have been at the U.S. Open a lot this year, Congressional might feel the same way.
The rough'moderate but still punishing'frames the fairways in classic U.S. Open style, and the greens are better than Stuart Appleby remembered from last year when he closed with a 76 and lost a two-shot lead.
Congressional hosted the U.S. Open in 1997, won by Ernie Els, and will get the U.S. Open in three years.
Poa annua and smooth is almost an oxymoron, Appleby said. Its tough. This week, they seem to be not too puffy. The ball is doing everything that any player would want it to do. For some reason here, they got it right.
Some have wondered if the bumpy conditions last year kept players away. Others point to the European tour season hitting its stride, especially with the British Open only two weeks away.
Sergio Garcia, who won at Congressional three years ago, and Justin Rose are among those playing the European Open in England this week. Els and Phil Mickelson will be playing the Scottish Open next week at Loch Lomond.
And some players had to go through 36-hole qualifying for the British Open on Monday.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said it was too early for anyone to worry about the AT&T National drawing the best players, even when the top player is on the DL.
All of the pieces are here for it to be an especially good tournament, Finchem said. We have a lot of great players here this week, and one of things we are looking forward to between now and when Tiger comes back is watching to see who steps up. From that standpoint, Im not too concerned.
When you add some of the players that are hurt, Tiger being back next year, I really feel good about it.
Choi felt good just seeing the Blue Course again, recalling the situations he was in on every hole and the shots he pulled off, none more important than holing out from a bunker on the 17th that wrapped up his three-shot victory.
It definitely helps my confidence, and I think its going to help me a lot this week, Choi said. I think this course is in very good condition. This course fits my game very well because I hit a lot of high fades. I hope to repeat the same achievement I did last year.
If he does, there will be one big difference.
Woods, who is in a straight knee brace and on crutches, probably wont be around to hand him the trophy.