Bridgestone Invitational: Firestone Country Clubm Akron, Ohio
The PGA Tour moves on to the Firestone Country Club in Ohio for the WGC Bridgestone Invitational 2017. This course is the longest Par-70 on the tour and is considered to be one of ‘the big boy’ courses. It is long, has relatively narrow fairways and plenty of sand for the players to contend with.
The course is just over 7400 yards in length and was first designed by Bert Wary in 1928 before being completely remodeled by Trent Jones in 1960. There are seven Par 4’s on this course that measure more than 460 yards.
The weather is expected to be mixed over the duration of the tournament with the current forecast being for possible thunderstorms on Thursday and Friday but a dry weekend thereafter.
This tournament is a part of the World Golf Championships and this means that it is a different format from other regular PGA events. The field is much shallower with only 76 players being invited for this event and there is no cut. All of the field will play for the entire 4 days.
A look at some of the previous winners at this tournament has shown that it takes special skills to come out on tops in this tournament. First-time winners or left field choices are rare. Tiger Woods won this tournament 8 times between 1999 and 2013, McIlroy won it in 2014, Shane Lowry in 2015 and the defending champion for this year is Dustin Johnson.
The names also have another thing in common. All of them have been absolute bombers off the tee and been able to gain a huge advantage in terms of the distance they get. By itself, getting distance is not enough because the follow-up iron play has to be stellar as well but it is hard to see a player that does not have the big drive in his arsenal doing well on this course.
The Wolf thinks players that can hit it long and straight will have a significant advantage. They will then be separated by their second shots making greens in regulation a key focus. The greens do not have a tonne of undulation to them and are going to be very pure.
Stats That Matter
The Key Stats that the Wolf is going to be looking at are:
– Ball Striking
– Par 4 Scoring
Dustin Johnson shot a 6-under (274) when he won last year, winning by 1 stroke. He was 2nd in driving distance, 4th in driving accuracy and 5th in greens in regulation during that tournament.
Bogey avoidance is also important on this course and the Wolf looked at that as well but overall being aggressive and looking to score is going to be much more important than playing safe.
The Winning score last year was 274, 269 in 2015, 265 in 2014 and in 2013.
As the Wolf mentioned, this is a tournament where sticking to the top players could be a useful strategy. There is, of course, no one hotter than Jordan Spieth right now after his astounding win at the Masters. For this tournament, though, the Wolf is going to move past him because of his price and the fact that his driving is not the best among the competition.
Dustin Johnson also gets a pass with the Wolf turning his attention to Rickie Fowler at $17.00.
Fowler has four top-10 finishes in his last six starts and has the stats to back his claim. Often claimed as one of the cleanest ball strikers in the world, Fowler is 12th in ball Striking, 9th in Scrambling and 45th in Par 4 scoring. Don’t be fooled by his stature either. He can bomb them off the tee, is 4th in birdie average, 1st in sand save percentage and 2nd in strokes gained. His putts are also falling in with regularity and he is 3rd in strokes gained in that discipline. Add to the that his course history where he has 7 out of 7 cuts made and a top-10 finish the last three years he has been here. The Wolf thinks Fowler has an excellent chance of winning this year. He is playing lights out and with 8 top 5’s this season The Wolf has him adding to his win at the Honda Classic.
Rory McIlroy also ticks a lot of the same boxes and is coming off an excellent Open Championship. Keep an eye on him as well for some In-Play betting. He has been a slow starter this season shooting 71 or worse in 6 of his 8 starts on the PGA Tour. He has been hot in the second round though – especially at the WGC events with a 66 at the HSBC and a 65 in Mecixo. Likely to drift after the first round we could get well over $20 about him.
In terms of value the Wolf has highlighted Jon Rahm at $23.00. Rahm has never played in this tournament before and that is something that could go against him but the man has immense talent and all the tools in the box to be able to win it the first time around. Rahm also gets excellent distance off the tee and his iron play is sublime. He is currently 4th in Par 4 scoring, something that could a huge advantage at this course and 18th in ball striking. Scrambling is not the strongest part of his game but if his irons are dialed in his wedge play will not be called upon around the greens.
For the final pick, the Wolf is going with Daniel Berger at $41.00. Berger is in fine form with a T27 at the Open, T5 at the John Deere Classic and T2 at the Travelers in his last three starts. This will be his second trip to the course and even though he did not have a great tournament last time around, the knowledge he would have gained will be priceless. Berger is 23rd in ball striking, 19th in Par 4 scoring and 27th in scrambling. Keep an eye out for his trademark high ball flight which allows him to attack very tight pin locations. He has shot in the 60’s in 9 of his last 12 rounds. He is an excellent pick at the price and a genuine threat to the big names.
Tournament By Country
72 Hole Match Bets