TIGER WOODS
 
Awesome is the only word to describe Tiger’s record around this layout. If there is one track where he might plausibly bounce back to his pre-scandal best, Firestone is it. Then again, I said something similar ahead of Pebble Beach and St Andrews, to little avail. The fact Woods has ranked outside of the top 50 for greens in regulation in his last two events speaks volumes, because that stat has better illustrated his dominance than any other over the years.
 
PHIL MICKELSON
 
No surprises here, in that I’m not vaguely interested in supporting Mickelson. Granted, Phil used to be a Firestone specialist back in the 1990s, but since the course was toughened up ahead of 2003, he’s only made one top ten. Indeed, he’s missed the top 40 on five of the last six Firestone renewals.
 
LEE WESTWOOD
 
If fully tuned up after a break since The Open, Lee has every chance of usurping his superiors and grabbing the world number one spot. He has the ideal game for Firestone, as illustrated by five top 20s, including second and ninth in the last two years. Moreover, he has been the most consistent player in the world on tough courses recently. My only slight doubt is that he only travelled to the US on Monday, and did promise to rest his injured calf muscles after St Andrews, so might be better prepared next week.
 
RORY MCILROY
 
While I remain a massive McIlroy fan, last week’s performance in Ireland illustrated the danger in getting carried away with early hype. At this stage of his career, he makes too many silly mistakes to justify relatively short odds. Placed 68th on last year’s Firestone debut doesn’t read well either.
 
PADRAIG HARRINGTON
 
Generally speaking, I feel this column has endured some cruel luck this season, but I certainly can’t have any complaints about Harrington’s second place on Sunday. I’ve never seen anyone, including Mickelson, play so erratically yet finish so close. I will be amazed if he can get away with more of the same around Firestone.
 
ERNIE ELS
 
Ernie is very much one to oppose, given a longstanding poor record at Firestone. He’s only twice ever made the top-ten, and never challenged for the title.
 
PAUL CASEY
 
Casey has been a pick on at least a couple of previous Firestone renewals, as this long layout is ideal. With top 20s on five out of six attempts, including fourth in 07, he will rate a huge threat to all if recapturing his best form.
 
RETIEF GOOSEN
 
Like his compatriot Els, Goosen’s Firestone record is rather disappointing, only twice ever making the top ten.
 
IAN POULTER
 
Since the career highlight of becoming WGC Matchplay champion, Poulter has failed to confirm his improved status. Firestone could plausibly provide a spark, as he’s made four top-20s already here, during lesser, earlier stages of his career.
 
JUSTIN ROSE
 
As a dual PGA Tour winner in recent weeks, including in Ohio at the Memorial, Rose must enter calculations. He also finished a distant second to Tiger in 2007.
 
HUNTER MAHAN
 
Mahan’s three visits to date have all yielded top-25s, including fourth last year. Could this therefore be the week when he turns around a seriously disappointing summer?
 
CAMILO VILLEGAS
 
Similar comments apply to Mahan, albeit without the proven course form. My opinion of Villegas remains as high as ever, and this course should suit, but his recent figures make him unbackable.
 
STEVE STRICKER
 
After turning his season around with a superb victory at the John Deere Classic, it would take a brave man to ever write Stricker off. Four visits to Firestone have produced mixed fortunes, twice making the top six, twice failing miserably.
 
MATT KUCHAR
 
Course debutants have a poor record at Firestone, but the ultra-consistent Kuchar is capable of bucking the trend. He ticks all the right statistical boxes, and also has a good Ohio record in terms of the Memorial.
 
ROSS FISHER
 
Ross finally did the business when it mattered in Ireland, and I suspect there will be more to follow before the season is out. He was badly beaten on both previous Firestone attempts, though.
 
2010 STATS: -39pts
 
LONG-TERM ALREADY ADVISED
5pts MARTIN KAYMER TO WIN THE RACE TO DUBAI @ 9/1

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