WGC Bridgestone Invitational Preview

Keegan Bradley - Image courtesy pga.com Keegan Bradley - Image courtesy pga.com

Int'l Federation of PGA Tours - WGC-Bridgestone Invitational - 1-4 August 2013
Firestone Country Club, South Course, Akron, Ohio

INTRO

This famous invitational has existed under a variety of guises since 1976 when it began life as the (NEC) World Series of Golf.

It has been dominated in the modern era by Tiger Woods who has won here seven times since first contending in 1999, though he's won it only once since 2007.

Recent winners have been: Keegan Bradley (2012), Adam Scott (2011), Hunter Mahan (2010) & Tiger Woods (2009).

COURSE

At its traditional 35+35=Par70 and at over 7400yds, Robert Trent Jones-designed Firestone remains one of the tougher and truer all-round tests of golf on the PGA Tour, albeit favouring the longer drivers with its lengthy, generous fairways. Short drivers simply cannot expect to win here.

Accurate iron play is essential in approaching the small bentgrass greens and, as ever, good putting will take a player a long way.

Previous course experience is valuable as there appear to have been no first-visit winners here. Apart from Tiger, the multiple Firestone winners have been Craig Stadler, Greg Norman & Jose Maria Olazabal - all players who have consistently mastered Augusta National & Doral, so I'll be referring back to recent Masters' & WGC Cadillac's before finalising my selections for this one!

EARLY MARKET

Tiger, as usual, heads the early market at a rather short 5.50. And, also as usual, I think it's too short a price and it makes him impossible to recommend after his poor performances of recent weeks - and especially his pathetic showing (along with a choking Lee Westwood) on Sunday at The Open Championship!

Next in the betting is Phil Mickelson at 13.00 - 15.00, and why not as he's seeking a 3rd win on the trot though his course form at Firestone is well below average, having finished outside the Top20 here in nine of his past 10 visits.

Previous winner Adam Scott is the clear 3rd favourite at around 17.00 ahead of last week's Canadian Open winner Brandt Snedeker at 21.00 and then a group of superstars: Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy all around 26.00.

Hunter Mahan withdrew following his wife's weekend delivery of a premature daughter; their first child. Form analysts will store away the fact that he was leading the Canadian Open by two strokes after 36 holes last weekend before withdrawing!

SELECTIONS

My selection to win outright is last year's winner Keegan Bradley @ 41.00. I can't see any good reason to oppose him at this price while question marks do hang over most of the other faves.

Keegs has been in solid form in recent weeks including 18th at the Travelers and 15th last week in The Open Championship. He drives it long and straight and putts best on bent grass. He was 7th in the WGC Cadillac and only a wildly uncharacteristic 3rd round 82 kept him from featuring at The Masters.

My top each way selection is Paul Casey @ 81.00. He owns a couple of Top10's here at Firestone and was 24th in Scotland in his only start since breaking out of a long injury-promoted rut with his Irish Open win in late June.

He has plenty of decent Augusta form on his cv; he'll drive it well and only needs a decent run with his putter to contend here.

My longshot selection is Richard Sterne @ 270.00 on Betfair, mainly as a back-to-lay proposition. His past four starts have yielded four Top30's including a 2nd when I tipped him at the Open de France and there was nothing wrong with his last start 21st at The Open Championship. He was 12th at the Cadillac and 25th at The Masters in a resurgent 2013 thus far.

Firestone will suit the now-healthy Sterne who will surely carry off a big prize sometime soon. I'm hoping he can start hot and that his price then collapses in to 30.00 - 40.00. For non-traders, his Top10 price is 10.00.

Cheers and good luck with your golf punting!

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