Our golf scribe previews this week's PGA Tour event, the Bridgestone Invitational, which starts on Thursday.
After taking a week break from the PGA Tour following a solid beating at the US Open, I’m back and ready to fire. The focus this week – the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
It’s a tournament that usually attracts the world’s best, but thanks to the Olympics and a power play by the European Tour, the field has been thinned out a bit. This doesn’t bother me none, as there’s less chance of some two-bit professional from Arkansas finding a way to top the leaderboard come Sunday.
This is a tournament with a proud history and a string of high-profile winners. Newly crowned US Open champion Dustin Johnson will be the main attraction this week, along with Jason Day and Jordan Spieth. It will be interesting to see how he copes with the extra scrutiny from the watching gallery.
Measuring 7,400 yards, the Par 70 course is a beast. This is about as long a Par 70 as you’re ever likely to see and one of just two par-fives is out of reach for even the longest hitters if organisers want it to be. If you don’t drive it well, you’re not going to be able to score.
Bridgestone Invitational | Thursday 30 June - Sunday 3 July | Firestone CC
2015 Shane Lowry -11 | 2014 Rory McIlroy -15 | 2013 Tiger Woods -15 | 2012 Keegan Bradley -13 | 2011 Adam Scott -17
Jason Day 6/1 | Dustin Johnson 17/2 | Jordan Spieth 10/1 | Adam Scott 16/1 | Brooks Koepka 20/1 | Bubba Watson 25/1
By the numbers
667 – The 667 yard Par 5 16th is the longest hole played in any non-major. Beastly.
8 – Tiger Woods has won this event 8 times, easily the most all-time for one golfer on any course in the history of the sport. Dominant.
11 – 11 of the last 12 winners had finished in the top 30 at the US Masters earlier in the year. Form line.
From the rough
Smylie Kaufman (110/1 Win & 24/1 Place)
Kaufman appeared on my radar courtesy of some stellar collateral form lines. Eleven off the last 12 Bridgestone winners had finished in the top 30 at the US Masters that season, and seven of the last nine had cracked the top 10 in the WGC-Cadillac Championship. That leaves Paul Casey (7th Cadillac, 4th Masters), Jimmy Walker (6th Cadillac, 29th Masters) and Kaufman (8th Cadillac, 29th Masters). I simply can’t be backing Paul Casey and have opted instead for an improving Kaufman. After a forgettable May, the Alabama native finished T20 at Memorial and T10 in last week’s Quicken Loans National. A place bet on him this week won’t go to waste.
Scott Piercy (90/1 & 20/1 Place)
Fresh off a T2 at the US Open, Piercy looks a long price on a course he has openly professed a liking for. While a form line of 19-59 doesn’t suggest much, his result at Oakmont has ended a two-year hiatus here. He has the game to suit, where he ranks T26 in Total Driving, which is a key stat for the week. That performance at the US Open cannot be discounted and if he can maintain that form on an easier layout, he could well be worth an each-way bet.
Danny Lee (75/1 Win & 33/2 Place)
Lee has shown an ability to perform well at some of the biggest events this year: 17th at the Masters, 35th at the Players, was tied for seventh after the first round at the US Open (although he eventually finished 57th). The 25-year-old impressed in his Firestone debut last year, firing a first-round 65 to take an early lead before eventually finishing sixth. At 75/1, it’s well worth seeing if he can build on that success.
Horse for the course
Jim Furyk (30/1 Win & 66/10 Place)
No player in the field has seen more golf at Firestone than Furyk. And while he’s never won here, that doesn’t tell the full picture. More than half his starts have been won by Tiger Woods, whom he lost to in a play-off in 2001. More recently he has claimed four top 10 finishes in his last six starts here, with his worst finish being T23. He should have won in 2012 but double bogeyed his 72nd hole to lose out by one solitary stroke to Keegan Bradley. He’s fit and firing after his T2 at the US Open and must be a contender here.