(Reuters) - Simply being back at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland for this week’s AT&T National gives Masters champion Adam Scott reason to smile as he continues his build-up to next month’s British Open.
The Australian world number four has finished in the top three for the past two years at the PGA Tour event, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, and he has always enjoyed playing golf in the general area of suburban Washington.
“It’s definitely a tournament I look forward to and this golf club, I think, fits my game well,” Scott told reporters ahead of Thursday’s opening round.
“I have had a couple of good results here over the years, and in the area for that matter, winning a while back at the old Booz Allen, so it’s good to be back here this week.”
Scott tied for third in 2011 before finishing alone in third place last year. He had previously triumphed at the 2004 Booz Allen Classic, held at the nearby TPC at Avenel course in Potomac, Maryland.
This week, Scott will be aiming to clinch a 10th career title on the PGA Tour, while also keeping one eye on the July 18-21 British Open at Muirfield in Scotland, the third of the year’s four majors.
“I’m looking to build a bit of momentum to go into the Open and build the confidence back to where I want it heading towards a major championship,” the 32-year-old said.
“I want to contend. Since the Masters, I’ve not really been in contention, so getting those feelings would be nice again.”
Scott, who landed his first major title with a playoff victory over Argentina’s Angel Cabrera at the Masters in April, heads a strong field at Congressional where American world number eight Brandt Snedeker is also competing.
However, the tournament was dealt a double blow over the past week with the withdrawals of defending champion Woods and U.S. Open winner Justin Rose.
World number one Woods pulled out on the advice of his doctors to rest a left elbow strain while third-ranked Englishman Rose opted out due to fatigue since he clinched his first major victory at the U.S. Open 10 days ago.
“I’m disappointed to withdraw from the AT&T National, but the last three weeks have been extremely demanding both mentally and physically,” Rose said on Monday.
“This tournament has been very good to me - especially in 2010 - and I would play if I felt I could. Tiger (Woods) and his Foundation run a great tournament, and I wish I could be there.”
Rose, who won the AT&T National in 2010 when it was held at Aronimink, has been replaced in the field at Congressional by American Brendon Todd.
Also competing this week is PGA Tour veteran Ken Duke, who is still riding the crest of a wave of emotion after notching his first win on the U.S. circuit in 187 starts at the Travelers Championship on Sunday.
“I think my caddie and I will be talking about what happened last week and probably not focus on this week, but sometimes that’s good because you don’t think about what’s going on,” Duke said.
“You just go have fun. Everyone’s going to say, ‘I hope he wins again.’ Well, I do too.”
Duke, at the age of 44, became the PGA Tour’s oldest first-time winner in 18 years when he edged out fellow American Chris Stroud on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury