World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational
Firestone Country Club
Firestone Country Club
Yards: 7,400 via the scorecard
Par: 70 (35-35)
Greens: Pencross Bentgrass, Poa annua; 7,619 square feet on average.
Rough: Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass from 2.5 to 4”
Water Hazards: 3
Course Architect: Bert Way (1928); Robert Trent Jones (1960)
Winner’s Share: $1,530,000
FexExCup Points: 550 to the winner
Defending Champion: Tiger Woods blasted Henrik Stenson and Keegan Bradley by seven shots to win for the eighth time in 14 starts in this event. This was his fifth and final victory of 2013. He has not won since.
Dates: July 31 – Aug 3
Notes: There will be 76 players who will play 72 holes without a cut.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 24 of 37 events in 2013-14 but none in the last two weeks. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane, Kevin Streelman and Brian Harman have won for the USA.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Hideki Matsuyama and Seung-yul Noh are the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy are the European chalk that has won two of the three majors. Angel Cabrera flies the flag for South America; Tim Clark flies it for South Africa.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd, Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had 10 in 37 events in 2014.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the way in Ws. Ryan Moore (30), Zach Johnson (37), Kevin Stadler (33) and Bubba Watson (35), Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30), Matt Jones (33), all were victorious before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35), Justin Rose (33) and Tim Clark, 38, have added to the prime-timers trophy case as the season moves along.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22), Brian Harman (27) and Rory McIlroy (25), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden (42) FINALLY has some company in the winner’s circle this year for the old folks as Angel Cabrera won at Greenbrier. Jim Furyk continues his excellent 2014, minus a victory, as he finished second for the third time in seven events.
Turn Back the Clock
At this point in the season last year there were 11, first-time winners and just four players with multiple victories Woods, Mickelson, Kuchar and Snedeker. Only Kuchar has cracked the winner’s circle this year and all that took was a hole-out from a bunker on the 72nd hole at RBC Heritage!
This year, Walker, Reed, Watson and Kaymer have won multiple times and there are 10, first-time winners.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE!
There will be 49 of the 50 players in the OWGR teeing it up this week as Dustin Johnson withdrew Monday for personal reasons. #strongfield
Amazingly, Tiger Woods has won this event eight times in the 14 times he’s teed it up. He also has four other T8 or better. #Landlord
Woods also holds the course (61 in 2000 and 2013) and tournament (259 in 2000) record to absolutely no one’s surprise.
More the half the championships, eight of 15, have been decided by two or more shots.
In the last 15 WGC-BI at Akron, 13 events have been won by major champions.
Yet, 11 of the last 18 WGC winners have NOT been major champions, including four of the last six. Matt Kuchar (2013 Match Play), Dustin Johnson (2013 HSBC Champions), Jason Day (2014 Match Play) and Patrick Reed (Cadillac Championship) are the non-major winners. Tiger Woods won the other two events in that run.
The last three winners of WGC events are non-major winners.
There are only 13 players to win a major and a WGC title:
Tiger Woods (23), Patrick Reed (24) and Keegan Bradley (26) are the three youngest to win a WGC event.
This Will Win You a Bar Bet
Hunter Mahan and Craig Parry are the only winners of this event in 15 editions that have not won a major championship.
Inside the Ropes
Playing at 7,400 yards and par-70, Firestone South is one of the annual tough guy tracks on TOUR. In the last five seasons this course has ranked in the top 18 of most difficult on TOUR and checked in last year at No. 9. There were two flights last year as Woods 265 won by seven shots. Stenson and Bradley were on 272 and that would have brought the 15-year average down if Woods had not gone nuts. The average winning score here is right around 13-under par but, as I mentioned above, there have been more times than not when “blowouts” have occurred to inflate that average.
In 15 WGC-BI, here are the winners, winning total and the margins of victory:
2013: Tiger Woods 265 7
2012: Keegan Bradley 267 1
2011: Adam Scott 263 4
2010: Hunter Mahan 268 2
2009: Tiger Woods 268 4
2008: Vijay Singh 270 1
2007: Tiger Woods 272 8
2006: Tiger Woods 270 PO
2005: Tiger Woods 274 1
2004: Stewart Cink 269 4
2003: Darren Clarke 268 4
2002: Craig Parry 268 4
2001: Tiger Woods 268 PO
2000: Tiger Woods 259 11
1999: Tiger Woods 270 1
With only two par fives and 7,400 yards in front of them, “the monster” as Arnold Palmer dubbed it, is ready to eat. With only two par fives that means meaty par fours and meaty par threes are needed to rack up that many yards on the scorecard. One of the par fives can be played all the way back at 667 yards, hardly a guaranteed birdie! Power players have excelled here over the years but so have finesse players such as Mahan, Luke Donald and Jim Furyk.
The weather will also play a factor this week. If rain is in the cards, this course will play much, much longer but could be easier/slower on the greens. If the forecast is dry, the average player can be rewarded off the tee but will have to navigate slick Bentgrass greens.
This isn’t the course to spray it because the pitch out recoveries will still leave plenty of club into these large, raised green complexes. The tight fairways do open into, on-average, large greens so players will have to hit them tight or hole putts. Last year, Tiger Woods and Henrik Stenson each made only five bogeys yet Woods won by seven strokes because he made a tournament-best 19 birdies. Birdies are there for the hot putters and those who avoid bogeys by getting up and down will also be in the mix.
One final thing to remember: look at the stats above on who wins the WGC titles. Patrick Reed and Nick Watney are the “worst” players to win one of these in the last five years. Think about that for a minute. I’m looking for one of the world’s premium players to lift this trophy on Sunday and there is no reason at all to dig deep into a field of this caliber. It will get you in the right mindset for Valhalla and the PGA Championship next week!