The World Golf Championship series has been a wonderful addition to the golf schedule in my opinion. You have the four Major Championships. You have The PLAYERS.. and then you have some other big, non-Major events like Riviera, Torrey Pines, and The Memorial.. but the WGC events give us four tournaments a year with limited, absolutely star-studded fields, that always seem to make for very compelling golf action, among the very most top players in the world.
This week we travel to one of the very most top courses in the world and that is Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio as it hosts The WGC Bridgestone Invitational. There are 76-players in the field and 49 of the Top-50 in the world rankings are present. Only Brandt Snedeker is missing as he continues to recover from a chest injury.
Firestone Country Club underwent a massive redesign at the hands of Robert Trent Jones prior to holding the 1960 PGA Championship and it has basically remained the same ever since. It is a very long course for only a Par 70, at 7400-yards. Tiger Woods owned this tournament in his prime, winning eight times! and he did it with both length and accuracy off of the tee. He and many other winners at Firestone, have also done it by hitting greens in regulation. The greens are smaller so Scrambling has proven to be important and so has putting. The greens are very fast and holing putts from inside of ten feet is especially crucial for those planning on taking home a trophy this week. Finally, one will have to score well on the Par 4’s. Always true with a Par 70 course and one of this length will make doing so even more challenging. A classic course and a classy field. It ought to be an excellent prelude to next week’s final Major, The PGA Championship.
Jordan Spieth (+9.19 Pinnacle) Mr. Spieth is back to being ranked number 2 in the world after two straight wins including The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. He’s played here in the WGC three times, going 49-10-and 3rd last year.
Rory McIlroy (+10.98 Pinnacle) Rory is fresh off of firing his caddie and headed into Quail Hollow next week for The PGA, where he owns the course record. Hard to know what to make of his mindset this week but he is coming off of a 4th place finish at The Open Championship.
Dustin Johnson (+10.22 Pinnacle) Still holding onto that top spot in the world rankings and also the defending champion here at Firestone. DJ produced a sold 8th place finish last week in Canada.
Rickie Fowler (+1600 5Dimes) Fowler has finished Top 10 here in three straight years and was 2nd back in 2011. Like McIlroy, Rickie is another player who has won at Quail Hollow, the site of next week’s Major Championship.
Brooks Koepka (+18.4 Pinnacle) Koepka won The U.S. Open and didn’t play for a month and then took 6th at Royal Birkdale two weeks ago. Now ranked 10th in the world, he is showing up big time at big events. He was 6th here in 2015.
Jon Rahm (+2279 Bookmaker) Has anybody moved up in the world rankings faster than Jon Rahm? It is not likely as he has now ascended all the way to 6th. This is his first time ever playing The WGC Bridgestone but in the two prior WGC events this year, he was 3rd in Mexico City and 2nd at The Match Play.
The Long Shots
Daniel Berger (+4000 5Dimes) Maybe one of the quietest excellent seasons on Tour going is the one being had by Daniel Berger. He has six Top 10 finishes including a win at The St. Jude. In his last three starts, he’s gone 2-5-27. A hot player having a hot year but he has not yet played in this event as he was forced to WD last season.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello (+6000 Bookmaker) Another one of the hottest players in the world right now as Cabrera-Bello won The Scottish Open and then took 4th at The Open Championship a week later. He was 29th in his last appearance here in 2012.
Kevin Chappell (+6000 5Dimes) Chappell is yet another player who is really becoming a top contender and especially at tough golf courses, as evidenced by his 3rd place finish here last year. He was 8th last week in Canada.
Charl Schwartzel (+6000 5Dimes) It is an odd statistic but 13 of the last 14 winners here at The WGC Bridgestone had also logged a Top 30 finish at The Masters earlier in the same season. Not so odd when you think only the top players in the world are here – and it is likely that the top players in the world do well at Augusta. Charl Schwartzel however, did take 3rd this year at The Masters. He has gone 7th, 31st, and 4th here at Firestone the last three years. In that 7th place finish last year, he led the field in Greens In Regulation. He does not rank all that high in that category this season but his putting has improved tremendously and he has plenty of length off of the tee. He was beaten up badly by the weather at Birkdale on Friday but otherwise had a solid Open Championship. I think his current form and course form may be just right this week and that’s tough to argue at 60-to-1.
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