This week sees the running of the third World Golf Championship event in 2010. Tiger Woods defends his title in the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.
Woods has won this event on seven occasions, including last season, but he’s not an overwhelming favourite this week. The World Number 1 has struggled to find his best form since returning from an extended layoff because of personal issues.
Instead, the competition seems wide open. All of the top-50 players on the Official World Ranking are scheduled to tee it up and there’s good reason to think we might see the first European winner since Darren Clarke secured the title in 2003. Lee Westwood will be amongst the favourites as will Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter. Graeme McDowell will make his first start on American soil since capturing the US Open in June.
Last season Woods came out on top at Firestone after Padraig Harrington suffered something of a meltdown on the 16th. The Irishman was through the green in three shots before attempting a flop shot back to the slick putting surface, he thinned it into the water and walked off with a triple-bogey eight. Tiger went from a shot behind to three shots ahead and eventually won by four.
At 7,400 yards with a par of only 70 Firestone will present a tough challenge to the top players who will be looking to hone their games with just one week to go before the year’s final Major.
Venue: Firestone CC, Akron, Ohio
Date: Aug 5-8
Course stats: par 70, 7,400 yards
Purse: $8,500,000 Winner: $1,400,000
Defending Champion: Tiger Woods (-12)
Thursday 5 – Live on Sky Sports 1 at 7pm
Friday 6 – Live on Sky Sports 1 at 7pm
Saturday 7 – Live on Sky Sports 3 at 5pm
Sunday 8 – Live on Sky Sports 3 at 4pm
Lee Westwood – Was ninth in this event last year and tied second the year before. He was runner-up at the Open Championship and must be considered a potential winner in any tournament he enters. If he wins and Tiger and Phil fail to make an impact, he could reach the World Number 1 spot.
Jeff Overton – He’s one of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour right now and he would have won last week at the Greenbrier had it not been for Stuart Appleby’s closing 59. This could be the event where he finally steps into the winner’s circle.
Tiger Woods – It’s impossible to ignore his record at Firestone, he’s won seven of the 11 Bridgestone Invitationals that have been contested. He may not be at the top of his game but he can’t be discounted.
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.
Skills required: Strength – Not only does this course require long hitting but the thick rough also demands powerful recovery play. Expect the long straight hitters and the strong “escape-artists” to cope well.