This week marks the middle of a frenetic five-week run to end the 2017-18 PGA Tour regular season. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational takes place in Akron, Ohio, at Firestone Country Club for the 19th and final time before moving to Memphis in 2019. It’s a WGC so stars and superstars litter the tee sheet, and a certain somebody with 14 major championships and eight wins on this course is ranked No. 50 and in the event for the first time in a few years.
Let’s take a look at this week’s contest.
What: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational | When: Aug. 2-5
Where: Firestone Country Club — Akron, Ohio
Ranking the field (odds)
Field strength — A+: As good as it gets for a no-cut small field event.
Three stories to watch
1. Tiger, back: Big Cat got in the field by a single stroke at the Open Championship, which is perfect because he’s more or less owned this place for the last two decades. It’s the most likely spot for win No. 80 for Woods, and it would be the perfect bookend to his last win, which was on this course in 2013. For all the consternation within those five years, Woods taking a victory lap at what amounts to a home game in that course’s final week as a PGA Tour host would be a nice appetizer to next week’s final major of the year.
Most PGA Tour wins by players currently under age 45:
Tiger overall – 79
Tiger WGCs – 18
Dustin Johnson – 17
Tiger in Florida – 16
Tiger majors – 14
Tiger in California – 14
Rory McIlroy – 13
Tiger in Ohio -13
Adam Scott – 13
Zach Johnson – 12#TigerReturns
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) January 24, 2018
2. Akron, gone: I think of it as the host for this tournament, but Firestone’s history with the PGA Tour runs deep. It dates back to the 1950s when the Rubber City Open (!) was held there and continued throughout the years with numerous World Series of Golf events and three PGA Championships. I don’t know if it’s sad to see the course go, but it feels like piling on for Akron to lose golf and LeBron James in the same year.
3. Ryder Cup implications: I wrote about this earlier in the week, but there are some serious Ryder Cup implications that will play out over the next two weeks. The fates of Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar, Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele (among others) will swing over the next eight rounds with $20 million worth of purses and a handful of Ryder Cup uniforms at stake.
- 2017: Hideki Matsuyama
- 2016: Dustin Johnson
- 2015: Shane Lowry
- 2014: Rory McIlroy
- 2013: Tiger Woods
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational picks
Winner: I picked him for Bridgestone and next week’s PGA Championship between when he finished up at Carnoustie and Francesco Molinari won. He showed me something there.
Top 10: Easy pick here. D.J. is coming off a big win last week and took Firestone two seasons ago. He was lousy at Carnoustie, but we’re a long way from Carnoustie, and the biggest dog on the PGA Tour should eat on this track.
Sleeper: Somebody who has this many top 10s at a course and played well at The Open should not have 50-1 odds for an event.