PGA Tour: WGC Bridgestone Invitational

RBC Canadian Open Preview

Our golf scribe previews the upcoming 2017 WGC Bridgestone Invitational set to be played at the Firestone Country Club. 

I just missed out with Alex Levy last week while Ian Poulter really gave it a run in Canada. So I feel my game is in a good space heading towards this crazy time of year. This event tends to carry a slightly melancholic edge due to the elongated public downfall of the event’s greatest protagonist: Tiger Woods. The eight-time champion is the undisputed king of WGC Golf, with 18 titles a tally that may never be surpassed given the current golfing climate.

Dustin Johnson, however, could achieve something this week that even the great Woods could not achieve. If he were to defend his title this week he would become the first man to win three consecutive WGC Titles, while simultaneously becoming the first man to win three in the same calendar year.

WGC Invitational Thu 3 August - Sun 7 August | Firestone Country Club, Arkon, Ohio

Since the inception of the event in 1999, every edition has been held on the South Course at Firestone, with the exception of the 2002 event. Measuring over 7,400 yards, the par 70 layout- known rather menacingly as the ‘Monster’, is considered one of the toughest layouts all season. The fearsome, tree-lined fairways will require precision and strength from the tee-box, while cloying rough and devilishly placed bunkers wait to rebuke the overly ambitious. Both Sergio and Tiger have managed to shoot 61’s in recent editions, but finding fairways is of paramount importance.

With all the talk surrounding Dustin’s quest for a hat-trick of WGC Titles, Jordan Spieth’s own potential treble has gone slightly unreported. When he drove that ball into a parallel dimension on the 13th at Birkdale, most devotees of the young Texan would have been expecting a breakdown of Augusta proportions. But the young man showed his mental strength and held on to add his third major crown after that dramatic victory at the Travellers. And you have the figure of Rory McIlroy, keen not to become a redundant figure in talks of the greatest players in world golf. Of added interest is the fact that this is his first tournament without recently fired caddie JP Fitzgerald, the man he credited with awakening him from an early sojourn to claim an excellent 4th place finish at Birkdale.

Past Winners
2016: Dustin Johnson (-6)
2015: Shane Lowry (-11)
2014: Rory McIlroy (-15)
2013: Tiger Woods (-15)
2012: Keegan Bradley (-13)

To Win Outright: 
Jordan Spieth 8/1, Dustin Johnson 9/1, Rory McIlroy 10/1, Brooks Koepka 16/1, Ricky Fowler 18/1

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Value Bets

Mark Leishman- To Win (45/1), To Place (19/2)
The journeyman Australian has managed to capture an air of consistency in recent times that seems to fly against the grain of his usually mercurial mystique. Ever a dark horse for a major Championship upset, Leishman has already tasted success this season with a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He has only missed one cut since that victory- at the notoriously temperamental Player’s Championship at Sawgrass. He had an excellent finish at the Quicken Loans before rallying at Royal Birkdale after a second round 76. He ultimately finished in a tie for 6th at the Open and Leishman has course history to boot. He finished three shots behind Rory in 2014 after shooting an opening round 64.

Kevin Chappell- To Win (66/1), To Place (14/1)
With all the hullabaloo surrounding the likes of Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, I always like to cast my eyes towards those choices considered somewhat unfashionable. They generally make for better value and I also have a predisposition towards the underdog. Well certainly not a prolific winner on tour, Chappell has transformed into the model of consistency over the last few tears. He just had a top 10 finish at the Canadian Open and is returning to a course that he finished 3rd at last season, which is fairly remarkable since it was his first visit to a Bridgestone course notoriously cruel to debutants. He also ranks 31st on tee to green scoring, indicating that his straight driving will come in handy on this occasionally claustrophobic course.

Xander Schauffle- To Win (125/1), To Place (25/1)
Taking a more speculative pot with this one, I think that Schauffle is one of those guys- much like David Lingmerth- who is routinely underestimated. He is fairly accurate off the tee and has already tasted victory this season. His victory at the Greenbrier Classic was followed by a T20 finish at the Open. In fact, he hasn’t finished outside the top 34 in his last five appearances. He strikes me as a great bet if you are low on cash and high on optimism. The 23-year old PGA Tour rookie looks enticing at 125/1.

The Man to Beat- Rickie Fowler- To Win (18/1), To Place (39/10)
Rickie Fowler’s quest for a breakthrough in major championship golf continues. The man with the sartorial flair ala Ian Poulter just can’t seem to play a decent round of golf on those examining Sunday afternoons. But the 28-year old Fowler has generally been in magnificent form this year. The 2017 Honda Classic Champion has registered an eye-catching seven top 10 finishes in 15 starts. Since June he has secured three top 5 finishes from five starts. Fowler is on a streak of three consecutive top 10 finishes in this event, with his brilliant short game suited to the challenging greens here. He currently sits third for shots gained putting this year, as well as 1st for sand save percentage and scrambling from the fringe.

Extra Tips

First Round Leader- Charley Hoffmann at (50/1)
If only Charley could maintain the early momentum he generates in rounds, he could be one of the most successful players on the tour. Remember the way he started at Augusta this year, only for late jitters to scupper his chances. He went ahead and chucked the Canadian Open away but could be a cheeky first round leader bet.

Top European- Alex Noren at (14/1)
With five wins in the last year, and having risen to the top 10 of the world golf rankings, Noren looks a great price at (14/1) to finish top of the European pops. His tie for 6th at the Open was barely noticed, and I expect him to surreptitiously make his way up the standings this week.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets

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