Firestone Golf Club South Course
Firestone Golf Club
Par: 70 (35-35)
Greens: Pencross bentgrass; Poa annua; 7,619 square feet on average.
Rough: Kentucky bluegrass; perennial ryegrass 4”
Water Hazards: 3
Course Architects: Bert Way (1928); Re-design Robert Trent Jones ( 1960)
Winner’s Share: $1,500,000
FexExCup Points: 550 to the winner
Defending Champion: Keegan Bradley rolled in a par putt on the 72nd hole to claim a one shot victory in earning his first WGC title.
Dates: August 1-4
Notes: 74 players are entered and there is no cut. Jordan Spieth and Louis Oosthuizen were eligible for this event but all three have decided not to play due to various reasons.
Tiger Woods has played this event 13 times. He’s won it seven of them.
There have been 32 tournaments this season. The Stars and Stripes have won 26 of them.
There have also been 11 first-time winners this season. There have also been four, multiple winners, Tiger Woods (four) and Matt Kuchar (WGC-Match Play; Memorial) and now Mickelson and Snedeker in the last two weeks. There were only nine first-time winners in 2012.
Tiger Woods set the course record in 2000 with a 61 in the second round.
Tiger Woods set the tournament record with 259 (21-under-par) in 2000.
Adam Scott went wire-to-wire in his 2011 victory. Jim Furyk led for 71 holes last year. WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN? That Woods guy seems to win many tournaments when front-running…
Only 10 players have won a major and a WGC title.
Past Champions in the field:
Keegan Bradley 2012
Adam Scott 2011
Hunter Mahan 2010
Tiger Woods seven times
The winners on TOUR have been Johnson, D (28), Henley (24), Gay (41), Woods FOUR times (37), Mickelson TWICE (42), Snedeker TWICE (32), Merrick (30) Kuchar TWICE (34), Thompson, M (27) Brown (29), Streelman (34), Points (36), Laird (30), Scott (32), G-Mac (33), Horschel (26), Ernst (22), Bae (26), Weekley (39) English (23), Rose (32), Duke (44) Haas (31), Blixt (29) and Spieth (19). The young folks (30 and younger) now have 12 victories; the 30-somethings have racked up 15 victories, and the “old folks” (40 and up) have five wins on the year.
Rank and File
As of Monday afternoon, 46 of the top 50 players in the OWGR are entered this week.
Firestone South has given up an average winning score of around 12-under over its recent history. This course has a handful of brutal par fours and one of the longest par-five holes on TOUR so the best players in the world will have to cash in on the other holes. Hole No. 16 measures 667 yards so one of the only two par fives won’t be a guaranteed birdie so that leaves the other par five and the par fours and threes to make birdies. Keeping the ball in play off the tee and hitting GIR will be the keys to victory. Or, play it like Keegan Bradley did last year as he led the field in birdies, strokes gained-putting, putts per GIR on top of T6 in driving accuracy and T11 in GIR. That’s a perfect recipe! Gamers, remember Luke Donald was second here in 2011 and Jim Furyk led for 71 holes last year so that proves that “short” hitters can also flourish in this event.
Tiger Woods has won this event seven times because of his ability to hit high iron shots into the mostly raised greens. It doesn’t hurt that he’s long off the tee and one of the best putters of fast greens ever. The Stimpmeter will be rolling close to 14 this week so excellent putters should be rewarded on these large greens. In WGC events, the cream usually rises to the top and this week shouldn’t be an exception. I’m looking for a premium player who has been in sharp form and isn’t afraid of the big moment on a Sunday afternoon.
Best 10, Plus One
Often referred to as “the chalk” in the Sunday wrap-up column, these are the best players in the field for my money.
Tiger Woods: As mentioned before, he’s won seven times in 13 trips to Akron. His four wins this season have come on courses where he’s had tremendous successes before. He’s coming off a disappointing T6 at The Open but Woods doesn’t live life in the rear-view mirror. He’s the one-and-done this week for me.
Phil Mickelson: He only has one top 10 finish in his last 10 starts here. In that same time frame, he has only two finishes inside the top 25. Remember, this is a 70-something person field annually so those numbers should scare gamers. Remember, he’s was second at the U.S. Open and he won The Open Championship and since this event is not being played at The Greenbrier, gamers should be encouraged. He’s in the form of his life so I’m on board, history be damned.
Justin Rose: If he’s in the field, he’s on this list for me. His length and accuracy off the tee allows him to flag hunt on the greens. He’s 13th in GIR and second in scoring average so I’m not over-thinking this one even after his MC at The Open his last time out. He’s 13th on TOUR in par-four performance and has two top five finishes in his last five trips to Akron.
Brandt Snedeker: He has the second-most wins on TOUR since 2011, five, and trails only Tiger Woods (seven) in this time frame after his win last week in Canada. Snedeker loves slick greens and if his ball-striking continues to hold up, there’s no reason to believe he cannot win each time he tees it up. He’s currently third on TOUR in par-four performance and is second in birdie-or-better conversion percentage. His current form demolishes his course history in Akron.
Matt Kuchar: In the last three years at Firestone he’s posted T9, T19 and T8 last year and only three of those rounds have been over par. He’s kills par fours and his short game gets him out of most jams. He’s shown that he has no problem at these WGC events as he won Match Play earlier in the year and has eight top 10 finishes in 12 starts.
Adam Scott: He backed up his T9 in 2010 with a victory in 2011 so his recent form around here is just fine. He’s a monster off the tee and his caddy seems to know his way to the winner’s circle at this joint. One of the best ball-strikers around, Scott is impossible to count out if he’s in the field.
Charl Schwartzel: He’s finished in the top 15 of his last three events on TOUR and should be excited to return to the South Course after his 63 last year on Sunday. He’s plenty long and has no problem putting slick greens.
Keegan Bradley: The 2012 champion has played eight rounds on this track and has SEVEN of them under par. Whoa. His T15 finish in 2011 would have been even higher except that he limped home on Sunday with 74. I take it he enjoys long, greasy par 70 layouts as all three of his victories have been on tough tracks (TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas, Atlanta Athletic Club and Firestone South). He excels because his well-rounded game can handle the length, the long irons and slick greens. Bradley closed 70-71 at Muirfield so he should be ready to bust out this week.
Lee Westwood: He’s added Sean Foley, Ian Baker-Finch and now sports psychologist Ross MacKenzie to his stable as he tries to add more trophies to his new home in West Palm. In his last five trips to Akron, the Englishman has a T2, T9 and ninth against a WD and 70th (2012). The harder the course, the more I like Westwood.
Steve Stricker: Mr Part-Timer returns this week after celebrating his 20th anniversary with his lovely wife. His picking and choosing of a limited schedule in 2013 as yielded over 2.3 million in earnings and a ranking of No. 22 in the FEDEXCup standings. The reason WGC-BI is on his list? Simple, he’s finished T6, T9, 14th and T2 last season in his last four. His worst finish in the last five years at a WGC stroke-play event is T18. Nothing to worry about here!
Dustin Johnson: He was one shot behind Brandt Snedeker last week as he stood on No. 17 on Sunday. I’m not worried about the tee shot he hit OB, it happens; I’m more concerned, in a good way, which his game is coming around. He opened with 75 and could have mailed it in. He didn’t. He did the exact opposite which was cranking out 40 holes without a bogey or worse until No. 17. He had a nice finish in Munich. He was right in at The Open until a 76-77 weekend derailed his chances. He was on back with two to play last weekend. It’s coming. He’s obviously comfortable with his relationship with Paulina Gretzky (read his Twitter feed) and he looks like he’s reading to win again. In four starts here, three have finished T22 or better but is yet to crack a top 10.