This week, the worlds best, battle it out for a WGC at Firestone CC. Akron. Home to the GOAT’S greatest finishes, will anyone find their inner Tiger this year.

Tiger Woods has torn fields apart, by huge margins, year after year at Firestone a venue he feels extremely comfortable at. His last victory, being his 79th PGA title, was the 2013 WGC Bridgestone Invitational, coming back to beat both Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson in a playoff.

The GOAT has recorded eight victories at the world golf championship event, along with 11 top-10 finishes in 14 appearances. Woods also holds the tournament record of 21-under (259).

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The tournament is fairly new on the PGA Tour, being established in 1999 as a successor to the World Series of Golf. Dustin Johnson defends his 2016 win at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, he shot a 66 to claim his 11th win on the PGA Tour.

A par 70 measuring 7,400 yards, Firestone just ranks outside the PGA Tours top-10 longest courses from 2016 and presents a tenacious test to an elite field.

Home to rows of trees lining the fairways, an abundance of thick rough, slippery greens and holds brutal long par fours, plus a 16th hole 667-yard par five.

Having an accurate, and rocket, tee shot is key on this track with any knock into the trees putting your chances of par on the back-burner, with a guaranteed chip-out.

Low scores are achievable in perfect conditions and with a solid game. Tiger Woods twice has signed for a 61 (2013 & 2000) along with Sergio Garcia (2014).

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The South Course, which the tournament is played on at Firestone, was originally designed by Bert Way in 1929 but it saw big changes in its remodeling by Robert Trent Jones 31 years later.

It hosted the first World Series of Golf in 1976, which was won by Jack Nicklaus. Before being home to the Bridgestone Invitational from 1999.

A pure track, the greens will separate the champion from the field. You can’t underestimate the fast and slippery greens.

The Field:

  • 28 players of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup make up the 76-man field.
  • There are 16 Major Champions. Including Jordan Spieth (The 146th Open), Brooks Koepka (2017 US Open) and Sergio Garcia (The 2017 PGA Championship).
  • 7 of the world’s top 10 ranked players.
  • 49 of the top 50 players in the world will tee it up.
  • 3 of the past 18 champions are present. Including last year’s champ Dustin Johnson and 2014 winner Rory McIlroy.

HOT Players to watch:

Rory McIlroy

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Returning to Firestone CC for the first time since his 2014 win, Rory McIlroy is looking to improve on his recent T4 finish at The Open, with a new caddie on the bag.

The world-number four has been teetering on the edge of something brilliant, coming from early season injuries and a putter change, a new bagman might give him extra confidence.

Firing a final-round 67 at Birkdale alongside an amazing turnaround late in the first round shows there’s fuel still in the tank this season.

In six starts at the final WGC of the year, the Northern Irishman has four top-10 finishes. From his 2014 triumph, he ranked 1st in strokes gained tee-to-green, off-the-tee, driving distance and in par-4 scoring. Stressing the importance of accurate play when trying to tame the beast in Akron.

History predicts that this will be a successful week for Rory, he deals with setbacks very well. After splitting up with fiancé, Caroline Wozniacki, he tore up Wentworth on route to winning the BMW PGA Championship that very week.

Jon Rahm

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A big, firey, golfer for a big old course.

This is the Spaniard’s debut at Akron, but the long course that Firestone is, it should suit the eye of Rahm.

He ranks third in strokes gained off-the-tee on the PGA Tour, as well as second tee-to-green. Furthermore, he is rated first for approaches to the green, from 175-200 yards, which could prove vital.

We’ve seen his temper get the better of him since the U.S. Open, but he has thrived at the WGC events so far this year – tied third in Mexico and runner-up in the match play.

To add to his 15 cuts made this season with seven top-10’s, recently a T2 at the Dean and Deluca Invitational, holding a tour scoring average of 69.9.

A winner on tour, at the Farmer’s Insurance Open this season, Rahm knows how to get the job done and will be looking to find top form before the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.

Jordan Spieth

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The Open Champion is back to firing on all cylinders and on for his third win in three starts, should he triumph round, Firestone.

It could be the defining story line going into Quail Hollow next week, with Spieth in the hunt for the career grand slam at 24-years-old, but with a small field of the world’s best the American will need to carry on riding his Open momentum.

Spieth’s current form is hot, ranking first for strokes gained approach-the-green and first for birdie average, two stats that will go along way this week.

The Golden kid was also first in strokes gained putting at last years WGC Bridgestone Invitational.

He doesn’t hit the ball a huge distance, compared to the bombers teeing up, but he is just so locked into his own strategy and meticulous game plan. There’s always the fallback of past success in Akron, finishing T3 and T10 in his last two starts at the event.

Spieth could join Vijay Singh, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods as the only golfers in the 21st century to win three or more consecutive events.

Justin Thomas

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Missing the cut at the 146th Open was a blip in what’s been a life-changing season for the big-hitting American, who grabbed three victories at the start of the year.

Firestone is regarded as another bombers paradise and JT ranks 12th in driving distance on the PGA Tour. Heading to a course he has experience of, finishing T33 in 2016, he will certainly not hold anything back this year.

Impressively in his debut at the event last season he ranked T11 for bogey-avoidance and is very capable of low scores. Anyone remember that 61 in Malaysia?

He has missed three cuts in a row but, did start his Open championship account with a 67, heading into the final major of the year it’s time for the champion in him to rise.

Brooks Koepka

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What a ride it has been for the 2016 U.S. Open champion.

A big-dog, in his own right, the American is coming off four top-10s this season and a T6 finish in his last start The Open, throwing a 65 and 68 into the mix on a major weekend.

Much like Thomas, he looking to make this course easier by over-powering it, he ranks 10th for driving distance on the PGA Tour. To add to this, he has made a helluva lot of birdies this season, ranking sixth on tour.

With a T6 finish at this event, when Shane Lowry won in 2015, he is no stranger to Firestone CC nor long courses, with Erin Hills measuring over 7,700 for his maiden major victory.

Charl Schwartzel

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Schwartzel is a player who understands Firestone, it’s not a monumental task but does have interesting slopes and dangers to navigate,

The South African finished seventh last season and inside the top -5 in 2015, a big helping the 21st player in the world is his iron play, ranking 11th for approach to-the-green from 100-125 yard. This could come into should he find the fairway.

Suffering from too many missed cuts in 2017, Schwartzel, has strung together some impressive results on a host of tricky courses; 6th at Copperhwad in the Valspar, 2nd at the St. Jude Classic and 3rd round Augusta this season.

An outside player to watch, he could make moves in Akron.

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Sleepers

Dustin Johnson

This time last year it was Dustin Johnson on a roll, winning the 2016 WGC Bridgestone Inv, just one week after becoming US Open champion.

Making it was his third World Golf Championship title and since then he’s won two more – triumphing at both WGC events so far in 2017.

With eight top-10’s this season and already three wins (consecutively; Genisis, WGC Mexico, and WGC-Match Play) never count out the world number one.

Matt Kuchar

Coming off an average finish outside the top 30 at the RBC Canadian Open, his Open heroics can’t go unnoticed.

The American has six top-10’s this season and hasn’t finished lower than T40 when making the cut, his game is in amazing shape.

Similarly, he has come close at Firestone before, finishing T3 last year and inside the top-10 three times in the last 5 tournaments.

WGC Bridgestone Invitational Records

  • Tiger Woods holds the lowest 72-hole score: 259 (21-under)
  • Tiger Woods (’00 and ’03) and Sergio Garcia (2014) have carded the lowest round: 61
  • Adam Scott (FR, ’06) and Robert Allenby (BN ’02) have shot the lowest nine-holes: 29.
  • The lowest margin of victory was Tiger Woods in 2000: 11 strokes
  • The only wire-to-wire winners are Tiger Woods and Adam Scott

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Phil Mickelson is set to play his 19th WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Will be the only player to have competed in every one since 1999.

 

Venue: Firestone CC, Akron, Ohio

Date: August 3-6

Forecast: 6-15mph winds over the weekend. Strong chance of rain.

Course: Par 70; 7,400 yards

Purse: $9,750,000

Defending Champion: Dustin Johnson (-6)

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