For most casual golf fans and bettors, this week’s World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron begins about a two-month exciting stretch that essentially ends the PGA Tour season. Following this tournament, you have the PGA Championship next week, then a middling Tour stop before the four-event FedEx Cup playoffs and then the Ryder Cup. It’s like the stretch run of baseball season.
For pretty much every big-name player, this week will be their first time back on the course since the British Open. And it will be hard not to root for Adam Scott after his epic Sunday collapse at Royal Lytham handed the Claret Jug to Ernie Els.
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You may remember that Scott won this event last year. He didn’t make a bogey over his final 26 holes and won by four shots over Luke Donald and Rickie Fowler. But Scott’s win got a lot more publicity because of his caddie, Steve Williams. The caddie had recently been fired from Tiger Woods’ bag and took advantage of the spotlight of Scott’s win and the CBS cameras by spouting on the 18th green: "I've caddied for 33 years -- 145 wins now -- and that's the best win I've ever had." Obviously that was a ridiculous statement considering he was on Tiger’s bag for 13 major titles, but Williams clearly was still bitter over the firing. He would later apologize.
Should Tiger win this week, he probably locks up PGA Tour Player of the Year honors. He’s already the favorite for that with three wins and leading the Tour in FedEx Cup and money. And for a little added motivation, Woods could reclaim the world’s top ranking from Donald if he does win and Donald finishes third or lower. Tiger was outside the world’s Top 50 as recently as October.
There are 78 players in the field, and the only guy who qualified and isn’t in Akron is U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson, who also sat out the British Open. His wife recently gave birth to the couple’s second child. Simpson is expected back next week at the PGA.
Firestone’s South Course is a long (7,400 yards) par-70 – in fact the longest par-70 on Tour. It also has the longest par-5, with the 16th hole playing to 667 yards. Overall it ranked No. 18 of 51 courses last year in terms of difficulty. The course record there is 61, by Jose Maria Olazabal in 1990 and Tiger in 2000 – both would win the tournament.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Favorites
Considering Tiger has won this tournament seven times, it’s obviously no surprise he is the overwhelming 9/2 favorite at Bovada. Tiger could set yet another record this week with victory No. 8 as he would become the first player to win eight Tour events on the same course. Sam Snead won eight Greater Greensboro Open titles but at two different venues (Tiger has won seven times on two other courses, Bay Hill and Torrey Pines). Woods dominates the WGC events with 16 total wins, 13 more than No. 2 Geoff Ogilvy.
Donald is the 14/1 second-favorite. He comes in off a solid T5 at the British Open and had that co-runner-up at this tournament last year with four sub-70 rounds. He has two other Top-10 finishes at Bridgestone.
Scott is at 16/1 to repeat. He didn’t three-putt once in 2011 on his way to this victory and was terrific for 68 holes at the British Open. Scott has two other Top-10 finishes in this tournament.
Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy round out the Top-5 favorite at 20/1. Westwood comes off a massively disappointing T45 at the British Open. But the past three times he has played 72 holes at this tournament (he withdrew in 2010), Westwood has finished in the Top 10. McIlroy, meanwhile, is morphing into David Duval in that his game has imploded for the most part after being on top of the world. McIlroy was T60 at the British Open and had missed three of his previous four cuts in Tour events. He does have back-to-back Top-10 finishes at Firestone.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Predictions
Don’t expect a tight finish here as seven of the 13 events since this became a World Golf Championship have been decided by four shots or more. As for Top-10 finishes, you have to take Tiger (-250), Westwood (+135) and Donald (+110). I don’t think Scott is over Royal Lytham yet so take him for “no” (-150) along with McIlroy (-200).
Can Phil Mickelson turn his season around this week? Lefty is 33/1 to win and you rarely will get such long odds on him. But his game is in the dumper with McIlroy’s. I always mention Bo Van Pelt it seems, and he’s good value at 33/1. He has seven Top-10s this year, including T7 last week. Van Pelt was T3 at Firestone two years ago. Fowler is also interesting at 33/1. He had that runner-up finish last year and really needs to play well immediately to earn an automatic Ryder Cup spot.
But my pick is Hunter Mahan at 25/1. He’s a two-time winner this year and seems due considering that last victory was at the start of April and he has played well since then. Mahan won this tournament in 2010 and was Top 10 the previous two years.
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