BETHESDA, Md. — Rory McIlroy won’t be around, but his shadow will be looming over Tiger Woods when the AT&T National tees off today at Congressional, site of McIlroy’s runaway victory last year in the U.S. Open.
Woods wound up missing the middle two majors in 2011 to fully recover from injuries to his left leg, so all he could do was watch from home as McIlroy shattered his U.S. Open scoring records. Woods previously was the only player to finish a U.S. Open in double figures under par (12 under), and he tied the Open scoring record at 272.
McIlroy, who will be playing in the Irish Open this weekend, beat both those marks by four.
Rory McIlroy’s victory in last year’s U.S. Open." title="HUNTING FOR A TITLE: Tiger Woods heads the field teeing off today in the AT&T National at Congressional, site of Rory McIlroy’s victory in last year’s U.S. Open." width="300" height="300" src="/rw/nypost/2012/06/28/sports/web_photos/28.2s052.Tiger--300x300.jpg" />
HUNTING FOR A TITLE: Tiger Woods heads the field teeing off today in the AT&T National at Congressional, site of Rory McIlroy’s victory in last year’s U.S. Open.
In some respects, Woods can consider himself the defending champion. The last time the AT&T National was played at Congressional was in 2009, when he closed with a 67 to finish on 13-under 267 for a one-shot win.
But this isn’t the same course. It was played as a par 70 in 2009, with the sixth hole a long par 4. Now, the course is playing the same length as the U.S. Open, a par 71 at 7,569 yards, using some of the new tees the USGA had built for its premier championship.
That includes the 466-yard third hole, the 470-yard fourth hole, and a 523-yard hole on the 18th.
“I like it quick because it certainly puts a premium on shaping shots, and more than anything, keeping the ball under the hole,” Woods said. “We’ve seen what this place can do when it gets soft, and what the guys can shoot.”
Woods was asked what he would like to see as the winning score, and he cut off the question when a reporter said, ‘Would you like it to be below . . .”
“Below 16 under?” he said, smiling in reference to McIlroy’s record score.
“As long as I’m that person,” Woods added, “yes.”
Woods is coming off a U.S. Open at Olympic Club, where he took a share of the 36-hole lead, only to stumble badly on the weekend and tie for 21st.
“I’ve won major championships, and I haven’t done it since ’08,” Woods said. “We all go through periods where that doesn’t happen. Some periods are entire careers. But I think I understand how to win major championships. The key is just giving yourself chances.”
Nick Watney is the proper defending champion, winning last year at Aronimink near Philadelphia, where the tournament went for two years. The field also includes Hunter Mahan, a runner-up to Woods in 2009, Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott.
Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, McIlroy, BETHESDA, Md., Congressional, AT&T National, AT&T National at Congressional