Monday, 29 July 2013

WGC Bridestone - Firestone, Akron Ohio 2013

Tiger Woods goes searching for his eighth Bridgestone Title in Akron, Ohio this week and his first since 2009. This invitational will see the worlds best in action with all members of both Ryder Cup teams from Medinah eligible to compete alongside the worlds top 50 and tournament winners. The event also comes just one week ahead of the years final Major to be played at Oak Hill CC and tends to be a real strong indicator as to who will win the PGA Championship. Since 2006, every PGA champion has finished within the TOP 25 here at Firestone CC. With this in mind, punters have to be aware that despite the generous prize money on offer, this event will be suited to the in-form players at the top of their game as Firestone is a course that requires accurate long driving amongst the tree-lined fairways. This is a par 70 course measuring 7,400 yards so its not short and recent changes to some of the holes ensure that the potential winner needs to be able to drive it 290 yards or more. They will also need accurate approach play to small greens and have the patience to score.

One trend that has emerged over the years at Firestone is that all winners were coming here in excellent shape and won without any great surprise in doing so. Keegan Bradley won twelve months ago seeing off Jim Furyk with a closing 64. (It was the second time Furyk had been beaten into second following a seven-hole playoff defeat to Tiger back in 2001). Bradley was the then defending PGA Champion and had already pocketed ten TOP25s from nineteen starts that season. In 2011, Adam Scott triumphed having had produced 6 TOP25s from his 11 starts which included a runners up at the Masters.

 I don’t foresee any triple figure price winner this week but as with any betting, the punter is seeking value and with Tiger Woods the favourite, that value can be found as we look to get him beat. My shortlist for this event lists players that meet the criteria above, big but accurate driving with strong approach play and experienced patient play. They are also in excellent form this season and a win is just around the corner. Whether Phil Mickelson wants to make it a hat-trick and a four-timer the week after remains to be seen but he cannot be discarded too lightly given the form he is in now. Darren Clarke is the only European to win this event but there are a handful of players meeting my criteria that can end that trend. Most notably are Lee Westwood and Justin Rose, both have the driving attributes required and both are having stellar seasons with the former missing a win. It’s a course that should suit Rory McIlroy but he doesn’t meet the “in-form criteria” so is eliminated from my list. A lot of people did the same twelve months ago and Rory went on to win the Wanamaker Trophy at Kiawah Island and claim his second major.

With no debutant having won at Firestone, previous course form is a must before the final staking plan is finalized and then the bookmaker’s prices are assessed before value is determined whether we have the right bets selected. My three selections for this week with estimated price are as follows:

Justin Rose – Winner of The US Open in June, the Englishman is obviously in great shape. Ignore his Open performance at Muirfield, as that was a course not to his liking. This is. Justin was T5th here last year (2nd also in 2007), ranks 27th in Driving Distance (DD), 20th in Driving Accuracy (DA) and has an excellent approach game due largely in part to his coach Sean Foley. Along with his Major win this season, Justin has eight TOP 25s from 10 starts, of which five are TOP 10s.  His season is far from over.

Lee Westwood – Having failed to capture his first Major at Muirfield when leading by 3 shots early in the final round, Westwood will be unfazed by yet another “choke” on the big stage and prove that by mounting a serious challenge here. Tee to green; he is one of the best and as recent form shows his approach play and short game have sharpened significantly that can only lead to a win very soon. Firestone is the course for a player simmering for that elusive win and despite a third round 81 last year, he can go one better than his runner-up place to Vijay Singh in 2008.

Bill Haas - With Hunter Mahan becoming a father sooner than he was expecting during the Canadian Open, I fully expect him not to be a factor this week and instead my attention switches to Bill Haas who should provide some value. Haas has won this season at Congressional and has from his eighteen starts has produced eight TOP10s from the thirteen cuts made. Ranking fourth on tour for Par 4 scoring, the FedEx Cup winner, currently in seventh position, will be fired up for this stage of the season.

TIP 1: 1 pt e/w J.Rose @ 22/1  Paddypower

TIP 2 : 1 pt e/w L.Westwood @ 25/1 Paddypower

TIP 3: 1 pt e/w B.Haas @ 50/1 Paddypower

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