The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational is arguably my favorite tournament of the year. It’s played on a great course, with probably the strongest field in golf, which always makes for an exciting weekend. It may sound crazy, but I am actually more excited for this week than the PGA.
Here’s an early look at what to expect.
Tiger Effing Woods
If you had just told me that Tiger won the Buick Open by three strokes going into Firestone, I would have said this is the best fade oppurtunity so far this season.
However, I’m not quite sure it played out like that. First, at no point during televised golf did Tiger look amazing (except on the putting green). Tiger hit some loose shots, made a few mental mistakes, but still cruised to victory because of an extremely hot putter and a few overrated recovery shots.*
*Aside: Granted a few of those shots he hit on Saturday were over trees from opposing fairways, but excuse me while I don’t go crazy over them. If you look at the pure yardages(around 170) from perfect lies in the fairway that is a simple 7 or 8 iron for Mr. Woods. Those shots looked a lot more difficult than they were.
The problem is this is not playing out like a typical Tiger victory where he receives various sex acts from various members of the media. I caught some of the reaction on the golf channel last night and around the web and there seemed to be a general consensus that Tiger’s ball-striking was off and he only won because of a weak field. That, for the most part, is pretty accurate.
Still don’t expect me to be looking seriously at a man who has won 6 times at this venue. Firestone may be his best course on Tour although Bay Hill and St. Andrews are probably in the argument.
Course history will be misconstrued in every possible way this week considering this event always draws a similar field, playing the same course year in and year out. I took a look back at all the events at Firestone since 2001 using my rankings. Here are the top-10 unadjusted:
I only counted players with 12+ rounds here(3 appearance). The only noticeable name that left off was Hunter Mahan who has two strong showings here. Furyk is another horse for the course candidate that at 30-1 seems to be pretty reasonably priced.
Keep in mind that those numbers are unadjusted for strength of field. They would be more like -.25 lower factoring in the quality of field assembled at Firestone every year.
Forget the Fairway
I want to keep making this point: hitting the fairway does not matter. What matter is getting the ball on the green as close to the hole as possible for as many birdie opportunities as possible. Sometimes, hitting a fairway is the easiest way to do that, but if you can hit the ball high and soft from the rough and are strong there really isn’t a whole lot of advantage to laying back 50 yards to get in the fairway. I would assume most pros are better from 140(PWish distance) yards from the rough than 200 yards from the fairway(5-6 ironish). If Tiger doesn’t win this week you can bet hitting the fairway will be blamed, but the real culprit will probably be not hitting his irons well enough.
Phil at 16-1 is laughable if not for the clowns that will be backing the “fan” favorite. While Tiger is cursing a blue streak, slamming clubs and eating babies(and Dominating, too) , Phil always smiles gives high fives and wins all the fans. Good for him, but coming off a layoff on a course he historically struggles there is no way he is a noticeably better option than Furyk, Stricker, Garcia, etc.
Furyk: Good history here, which my numbers say you aren’t paying for(22-1) and doesn’t draw too much attention unless he is failing to play well on Sunday in contention. The man is due for a win at some point.
Mahan: Two strong showings at Firestone, a game that I think is more suited for the traditionally tighter more traditional layouts and another guy that is due to break out against the best golfers in the world.
Camilo Villegas: For a guy who won against two of the strongest PGA Tour fields last season in back-to-back weeks Camilo is getting no love with that price. As I have said before, Camilo definitely has upside, is hitting a lot of greens and by my estimation is one of the 10 best golfers in the world. A lot to like there at 60-1.
Phil Mickelson: Note that three other big names coming off layoffs (Tiger, Vijay, Ernie) struggled to find their rhythm right away. Also note that is probably meaningless.
Retief Goosen: If only Retief had won that playoff. TheGreek currently has Furyk lined up with Goosen, can’t wait to fire away on that one immediately.
The next leg is this week, I’ve got a few people wondering if they can join late, which is fine, but they will be a little bit behind. As always hit me up if there is anything you would like to see. If not, I’ll put the groups up once I see some more offerings at the books later tonight.