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Bridgestone Invitational Preview and Picks
by Matt Fargo - 08/02/2010
The PGA Tour is doing double duty this week, the third time this season that a regular tour event and a WGC event are taking place the same week. This week, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational takes center stage with each player in the top 55 in the OWGR competing from the Firestone Country Club South Course in Akron, Ohio. The Turning Stone Resort Championship has to deal with that along with preceding the PGA Championship.
We will keep our focus on the Bridgestone for betting purposes as we have a field that has not been seen on many occasions this season because of its strength. In total, 82 players are in the limited field and as is the normal case in these invitational tournaments, there is no cut and the winner’s purse is $1.4 million while the minimum payout is $35,000 so there is a lot on the line.
The South Course at Firestone seems almost unfair to amateurs as it is a par 70 but measures 7,400 yards making it the longest par 70 course of all non-majors. Surprisingly, the bombers off the tee do not have a huge edge as the real way to score is hitting greens in regulation as the greens can be very receptive and can lead to good birdie chances. Firestone South ranked 11th out of 51 courses in difficulty last season.
Since 2006, there have been 21 players in this year’s field that have made it to Bridgestone all four previous years and five more that have made it the last three years. This is important at a place like this since familiarity is a key component in being successful in this event. Of those 26 players, six have averaged a top 20 or better finish led by Lee Westwood who has finished the last three years an average of 11th place.
The other five players are Hunter Mahan, Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Zach Johnson. Westwood and Mahan, along with Stewart Cink and Angel Cabrera are the only three players in the field who have compiled two top 10 finishes with Cabrera being the only two-time top five finisher. Of those 26 players, Vijay Singh is the only winner due to Tiger Woods, who missed 2008, having won the other three times.
Tiger Woods (+450) in back this week and looking to get his first win of the season and is gunning for a remarkable eighth win in Akron. He won rather easily last year by four strokes over Robert Allenby and Padraig Harrington. The last four times he has teed it up here, he has come away with the victory so it is safe to say he loves this course. But does he deserve to be such a big favorite? No, but it is a good hedge here.
Phil Mickelson (+1200) is playing in the Bridgestone Invitational for the 12th straight time but has never won the event. He has five top ten finishes with a runner-up in 1999 being his best and most recent, a T4 in 2008 was his other top five. That is sandwiched around a T58 in 2009, a T46 in 2007 and a T54 in 2006. He has played only twice in the last two months and this course seems to not set up well for him.
On the other hand, it is a course for the liking of Lee Westwood (+1200). As mentioned, Westwood is one of only four players in the field who has two top ten finishes at Firestone but is he ever going to break through for one of these big events? He has five top three finishes in the majors over the last three years including three runner-ups which was also the case at the Bridgestone in 2008.
Justin Rose (+3000) has quieted after being the talk of the tour as his name is no longer mentioned and that is a mistake. After two wins on three events and it nearly being a three-sweep, he missed the cut at the Open Championship and then had a T44 last week at the Irish Open. Back on U.S. soil will help Rose as that is where he was hot and at the Bridgestone, he has finished in the top 30 the last three years including a T2 in 2007.
Ian Poulter (+4000) catches a great number and has become a forgotten man. He is still top ten in the world but this price does not reflect that especially considering it is a WGC event. His WGC résumé since 2005 starting with most recent: T37, 1st, T15, T13, T9, T16, T57, T17, T30, T16, T9, T2, T13, T33, T18, T33 and 4th. That is impressive as he has not missed a cut and almost half resulted in a top 15 or better.
Hunter Mahan (+5000) has reached longshot territory but he does not deserve it and this number has tremendous value. He has dropped to 31st in the OWGR but it is hard to look past his two top ten finishes at the Bridgestone over the last two years. He has missed the cut in one-third of his starts this year and while he has only two top tens, one of those was a win at the Waste Management Open so he has what it takes.
While Mahan doesn’t deserve that number, Zach Johnson (+6000) definitely doesn’t deserve this number. He has missed only two medal play cuts this year and while he has only one top ten, it was a win at Colonial. He has taken a couple weeks off due to the birth of his new son and his recent history at Firestone shows this is the perfect comeback venue as he has finished in the top 16 in each of the last three years.
Recommended Tournament Win Six Pack at the Bridgestone Invitational – All for 1 Unit
Tiger Woods (+450)
Lee Westwood (+1200)
Justin Rose (+3000)
Ian Poulter (+4000)
Hunter Mahan (+5000)
Zach Johnson (+6000)