Though this annual WGC event at Firestone Country Club is hardly a new experience, trying to pinpoint the best value did have an element of novelty about it this year. In all previous years except the one he missed due to injury, making Tiger Woods the main selection has been a no-brainer. Tiger has won here seven times, including each of his last four visits to Firestone, never missing the top five in 11 attempts. Apparently he prefers St Andrews, but this must be a strong candidate for his favourite US layout. Obviously, such a straightforward analysis would make no sense this year, as the 2010 version of Tiger Woods has been a pale imitation.
 
If Tiger is to fail at Firestone for once, it does not automatically follow that his principal rivals will be the beneficiaries. Plenty of outsiders have made the frame behind Tiger over the years, whereas many of the big names have repeatedly struggled. In our favour is the fact that this field is restricted to 82 players, and that the nature of Firestone makes it easier than usual to write many of them off.
 
There is also a significant sub-plot this week, in terms of the battle to top the world rankings. Any one of three players could be number one come Sunday night. In order to overhaul Woods, Phil Mickelson needs to win the tournament. He could still top the rankings by finishing fourth, so long as Tiger finishes worse than 37th. As for Lee Westwood, he needs to win the tournament and then hope Tiger doesn’t finish second. Alternatively, if Lee finishes second and ahead of Mickelson, Woods would need to finish ninth or better to maintain his position.
 
Course and stats
 
At over 7,400 yards, this par 70 is often described as a ‘monster’. Firestone Country Club’s South Course certainly provides one of the more distinctive tests on the golfing calendar, and there are obvious similarities to be drawn with Torrey Pines, in terms of the length and smaller than average greens. In extreme heat, which we may well see this week, those greens can become lightning fast and the course quite brutal. Otherwise, there are birdies available for those hitting high-class long-iron approaches.
 
Without doubt, the most important statistic to follow is greens in regulation, for all the above reasons, and scrambling also plays a big part due to the difficulty of holding those small greens. The best long-iron players tend to thrive, hence Tiger’s dominance, so it could pay to study the PGA Tour stats for approaches from 175-225 yards.