The world’s best players travel to Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio this week for the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational. Jordan Spieth can become World Number 1 with a win.
As Rory McIlroy is still sidelined with injury, Jordan Spieth could capitalise this week and overtake the Northern Irishman at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking. The Masters and US Open champion will be looking to claim his first victory in a WGC event and if he does so, he’ll climb to the top of the golfing tree.
This is the start of another big golfing fortnight as the top players in the world build up for the fourth and final Major of the year – the USPGA Championship next week at Whistling Straits.
There’s a limited field for the Bridgestone, just 76 players and no cut. The top-50 in the world, minus McIlroy and Chris Kirk, will tee it up together with a selection of other elite players who have qualified either through their participation in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, or by winning select events worldwide over the last year.
Lee Westwood will make his 52nd WGC start this week – more than any other player. But the Englishman is yet to pick up a victory in one of the events.
Lee Westwood swing sequence:
No fewer than 11 players from Great Britain and Ireland will start this week – one seventh of the field. They are: Paul Casey, Jamie Donaldson, Stephen Gallacher, Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Danny Willett and Oliver Wilson.
Tiger Woods has been a dominant force at Firestone since he won the inaugural instalment of this event as a WGC tournament (then the NEC Invitational) back in 1999. He defended his title in 2000 and made it three in a row in 2001. He’s won the event five more times since then. But Woods won’t play this year, as he doesn’t meet any of the qualification criteria for the event.
Last year Rory McIlroy followed his brilliant Open Championship victory with a win in this event. He caught and then overtook Spain’s Sergio Garcia to triumph by two strokes.
At 7,400 yards with a par of only 70, Firestone will present a tough challenge to the top players. The South Course at Firestone was originally designed by Bert Way back in 1929 but it was remodelled by the great Robert Trent Jones in 1960. In 1976, the course hosted the first World Series of Golf, won by Jack Nickaus. Until 1998 the tournament was known by that name, before it became a WGC event in 1999.
The weather forecast for the week suggests rain midweek then clearing by the weekend. So the greens could be receptive and the playing conditions favourable, we could see some good scoring.
Venue: Firestone CC, Akron, Ohio
Date: Aug 6-9
Course stats: par 70, 7,400 yards
Purse: $9,250,000 Winner: $1,570,000
Defending Champion: Rory McIlroy (-15)
Thursday 6 – Sky Sports 4 from 6.30pm
Friday 7 – Sky Sports 4 from 7pm
Saturday 8 – Sky Sports 4 from 5pm
Sunday 9 – Sky Sports 4 from 5pm
Jordan Spieth – It’s impossible to look past him at the moment. He’s won The Masters and the US Open; he won the John Deere Classic before missing out on an Open playoff by a single shot. He wants a win to move to Number 1 on the Official World Golf Ranking – he surely deserves that position.
Jason Day – He won the recent RBC Canadian Open and came close in The Open at St Andrews. He’s one of the hottest players in world golf right now and will surely contend again this week.
Rickie Fowler – Another man on excellent form, he narrowly missed out on victory at last week’s Quicken Loans National. He won the Scottish Open and The Players and was tied for eighth in this event last year.
Sergio Garcia – he was second in this event last year and is a joint course record holder. Has been on good recent form.
Marc Leishman – He lost a playoff for The Open Championship and he was third on his own in this event last year – the planets are aligning!
Key hole: 16th. A 667 yard par 5, it’s a true three shotter. A pond in front of the green means even the longest hitters can’t get there in two.