Rod Pampling Makes a Name for Himself at AT&T National

Tiger Woods hosts a PGA Tour event in the D.C. area once again as some of the best golfers in the world converge at Congressional Country Club's Blue Course.
By Bill Oram
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tiger Woods is the one, who as host of the AT&T National, has his name plastered all across town. Anthony Kim is the defending tournament champion whose defense included setting the course record at Congressional Country Club in the first round Thursday.

Still, when Rod Pampling -- who turns 40 in September and has two career victories -- looked to the video scoreboard toward the end of his morning round yesterday, it was his name he saw at the top.

He knew with his surge -- seven second-round birdies to fire a 6-under-par 64 and move to 9 under overall -- he had a shot at the lead, but seeing it on the screens showed he'd actually grabbed a share of it.

After his birdie at the par-4 15th, Pampling moved into a tie for first place with Woods, who eventually finished at 10 under after birdieing his 17th hole. Pampling's stay atop the leader board lasted little more than an hour, but it left him in good position for the rest of the weekend.

Pampling has a good history at Congressional. He finished third at the AT&T last summer and said the course fits him well.

"It's a shot-maker's golf course," he said. "I enjoy the challenge of actually having to make golf shots instead of just getting up and hitting it hard."

To be sure, Pampling isn't a tee-shot crusher in the mold of Bubba Watson or Woods. His average driving distance yesterday was 286 yards, 30 yards per drive less than Woods.

Instead, Pampling relied on second and third shots to make his push. He bogeyed just once, and in his few encounters with trouble was able to quickly rebound. "We recovered from the bad tee balls and we made a lot of good putts," Pampling said.

Two notable recoveries came on the back nine on holes 12 and 17. On No. 12, Pampling used a wedge to hit out 139 yards out of the left rough to four inches from the cup, turning an ominous beginning into a birdie.

It was a similar situation at 17, but with an extra detour. From the left rough he landed in the front bunker. From there, his shot landed within a foot and a half from the hole to save par and preserve his sterling scorecard.

"It wasn't a great lie, but we just tried to get in that front bunker," Pampling said. "I knew that was the best spot to try to get up and done, and thankfully, we were able to get a nice one there we didn't have to think about too much."

So close was the bunker shot that an otherwise docile gallery -- a relative flotilla compared to the armada trailing Woods's group -- began shouting "Get in!" as the ball ran up within inches of the cup and collectively groaned when it came to rest just short.

Recovering from poor tee shots won't be the only challenge facing Pampling over the weekend. Add staying close to Woods to that list, even though Pampling said nipping at the heels of the world's best player wouldn't impact his game.

"I've still got to play my own golf ball," he said. "He's not going to do anything to my golf ball, so it still comes back to what I want to do out there."

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