PGA Tour Odds and Predictions: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational
by Alan Matthews - 8/3/2011
Look for a jump in interest (both on television and in the betting world) this week on the PGA Tour because all is right in the golfing world: Tiger Woods is back and, as usual, the center of attention. The big-money, exclusive-field World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational is at Firestone Country Club in Akron starting Thursday.
Of course, Tiger injured his knee/Achilles’ tendon in the third round of the Masters. He managed to finish the weekend out at Augusta and played very well. But he aggravated the injury in the first round of the Players Championship in mid-May. Tiger managed only nine holes before withdrawing after shooting 42. He hasn’t played competitively since, missing both the U.S. Open and British Open – his opening tee shot on Thursday will be his first tournament shot in 12 weeks. Woods started practicing last month. That was just putting and chipping as he didn't get the go-ahead to hit drivers -- and put stress on that left knee -- until a couple of weeks ago.
Woods said this week he feels better physically than he has in years. That knee better be healed, because Tiger is guaranteed 72 holes because there’s no cut. Plus, obviously Woods wants to get in as much golf as possible ahead of next week’s PGA Championship.
If there ever was a tournament for Tiger to return and build his confidence – he still hasn’t won anywhere since the Australian Masters in late 2009 and hasn’t on the PGA Tour in 23 months – it is at Firestone. He has won seven tournaments on the tree-lined course. Woods has only finished outside the Top 10 once in 11 starts at Firestone with that coming a year ago when he tied for 78th. Tiger also needs to fare well because he needs FedEx Cup points. He currently ranks 135rd in points and needs to move inside the top 125 to assure himself a spot in the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedExCup. Those playoffs struggle for much attention as it is as they come during the start of football season, but they will be pretty much ignored if Tiger’s not there.
The other interesting tidbit regarding Tiger this week is this will be the first time he has played in years without Steve Williams as his caddie; Williams was fired just before the U.S. Open. Tiger is using childhood friend Byron Bell on his bag as he looks for a permanent replacement. Williams is the full-time caddie for Aussie Adam Scott now. Wouldn’t it be fun if Scott and Woods were paired in either Round 3 or 4? (They aren’t in the first two rounds – Tiger will play with British Open champion Darren Clarke). Currently Woods is the sixth-favorite on WagerWeb to win the Bridgestone at +1200. I can’t remember the last time he was outside the Top 5. I can’t see him winning this week, either.
PGA Tour Odds: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Betting Favorites
Rory McIlroy is the WagerWeb favorite at +800 this week. That’s another interesting twist in that this will be the first time Rory and Tiger have been on the same course since McIlroy won the U.S. Open in pre-2009 Tiger fashion and took over the title of “it” golfer and perennial tournament favorite wherever he goes. McIlroy hasn’t played great since Congressional, shooting just two sub-70 rounds total in finishing 25th at the British Open and 34th at the Irish Open. McIlroy played well here last year in finishing T9. McIlroy's career-best result in a WGC event came at the 2009 HSBC Champions with a fourth.
American Steve Stricker is the second-favorite this week at +900. He has won two of his past four Tour events and has finished in the Top 20 in each of his last nine. Stricker has contended here the past two years with a T9 last year and a T6 the year before.
World No. 2 Lee Westwood is next at +950. Westwood hasn’t played since a massively disappointing missed cut at the British Open. He withdrew from this tournament last year at 7-over, but he finished in the Top 10 the two previous years.
Phil Mickelson (+1100) continued his inconsistent play last week by missing the cut on an easy course at the Greenbrier Classic. Prior to that he was T2 at the British Open. Who knows which Lefty shows up, but he has never won at Firestone and has been better than 43rd just once in the past seven stops here.
PGA Tour Odds: WGC-Bridgestone Interesting Long Shots and Pick
You can’t really call defending champion Hunter Mahan a long shot at +1800, but his record here speaks for itself: three Top 10s in four starts including that win in 2010. Mahan is not in form right now, however, having two missed cuts with no Top 25 finishes in the past five tournaments on the PGA Tour. Mahan is married to a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, so maybe he has other things on his mind.
What is up with Jim Furyk? The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year has only two Top-10 finishes this year (no Top 5) in 19 events and hasn’t come close to contending. In the past eight tournaments he has five missed cuts and a best finish of T31. But at +6500 (tied for longest on the board), I think he’s your best “value.” He has been great at Firestone in the past, including shooting a final-round 64 last year, tied for lowest final round in tournament history, on the way to finishing T6 and five shots behind Mahan. Furyk has seven Top 10s in 11 stops at Firestone. Only Tiger has more. Take a shot on Furyk to find his game.
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