Tuesday, 1 August 2017

WGC Bridgestone 2017 - Firestone GC, Akron, Ohio

This week the International Federation of Golf Tours host the WGC Bridgestone once again at Firestone GC in Akron Ohio, a course that saw Tiger Woods an incredible 8 times. It's a week so to reflect on the exploits on one of the games greatest ever and wonder if we have indeed seen the last of Tiger competing at his best on Tour. With the event back in the schedule a week before the final Major of the year next week, this years tournament has thrown up a lot of what ifs and a fairly open book for the title. Open Champion, Jordan Spieth goes in search of a hat trick this week and I noted that I backed Justin Rose here in 2014 as he too went in search of a hat trick on the PGA Tour.

Apart from Tiger though, multiple winners are not the norm here but the honours list boasts a who's-who of world golf prevailing over the years. The WGC Championship came into being in 1999 when Tiger captured his first title but prior to this, the PGA staged the NEC World Series of Golf here from 1975 through to 1998. The honours list boasts Major Champion after Major Champion, from Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Craig Stadler, Nick Price, Curtis Strange, Jose Maria Olazabal, Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson & David Duval winning the NEC to Darren Clarke, Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson winning the WGC. Indeed, only Shane Lowry, Hunter Mahan and Craig Parry are the only non-Major winners here at the WGC. The list above may also suggest those with Augusta form should go well here on "The Monster" course.

Initially I had Rickie Fowler earmarked for this one. I backed Fowler for Birkdale but he didn't challenge at all but was in great form prior to then having won the Honda Classic earlier in the season. 4 TOP-10s at Firestone from his 7 visits suggests he's comfortable with this course, and if ignoring his 22nd finish at Birkdale, had posted 9-3-5-mc-2 in his previous 5 starts. He has the win already this season which is encouraging but a recent article by the 15th Club suggests perhaps that in his quest to find more fairways, he is losing strokes to the field this season off the tee and for this week that could be detrimental, unless of course he puts a longer driver back in the bag and goes for it! At 18/1 this week he's omitted from the final shakeup although I expect Rickie to be up there.

Last weeks staking plan in Hamburg was based on big hitters and whilst the winner is no slouch off the tee he does rank lowly in that category. The point being, we shouldn't get too caught up in the various stats but at Firestone we've seen it many times coming good in that strong DD and GIR games are needed to win. Zach Johnson has n't won here but he can boast 4 TOP10s in his 12 starts indeed make that 6 TOP-15s. The shorter but accurate hitters with a decent approach/short game can contend.

Justin Thomas arrives on the back of 3 successive missed cuts so will be anxious to get things going again and he may be motivated to do that as good mate, Jordan Spieth arrives on the back to back wins and indeed another Major in his locker to boot. Thomas was T-10 at Erin Hills and T-5 at The Memorial prior to the successive missed cuts so the 50/1 on offer is more a reaction to his last 3 events than his real chances here this week. 33rd on debut last year is nothing to shout about but strong driving stats are encouraging. The price has me interested.

The US Open Champ is also of interest here @ 20/1. Winner at Erin Hills and 6th at Birkdale, he's in form in the big events. With the season moving towards the big events over the next few weeks including next week's PGA Championship and the FedEx Cup Finals, there will be no letting up and he'll be hoping to keep recent form going. He was 6th here on debut 2 years ago before withdrawing last year with a niggling ankle injury. There's a bit of value in backing Brooks Koepka @ 20s for me.

Lastly, Jason Dufner may not have a great Augusta formline if the honours list here suggest a liking for The Masters course is essential but he's in fine form this season and of late,and is driving particularly well. He was 7th on debut in 2011 before finishing 4th twelve months later so has course form of note. Finished strongly at Birkdale with an eye catching weekend for a T-15. Won The Memorial in June to complement his 11 TOP-25 finishes for the season's 17 starts.

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Selections

2.50 pts        B. Koepka @ 21.00
1.50 pts e/w J. Thomas @  50.00
1.00 pts e/w J. Dufner @ 67.00