Power Rankings: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational
Back in its customary slot as a tune-up for the PGA Championship, Firestone Country Club's South Course hosts this week's World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. Of course, any WGC is hardly a member-guest where a pro can shake off some rust, and Firestone is everything but a pushover, but there is a palpable sense of comfort and familiarity as we embark on the imminent fortnight. After its shift to accommodate the Olympics last year and when the European Tour didn't designate the WGC-Bridgestone as an official stop, the field at Firestone is nearly at full strength again. Only Martin Kaymer (shoulder) and Brandt Snedeker (rib) aren't able to give it a go, thus leaving 76 in pursuit of the Gary Player Cup. Back to being the hottest golfer on the planet with wins in last two starts. Essentially achieving what he wanted after lessons learned in 2016. T10-T3 here in last two editions. The U.S. Open champ finished T6 at Royal Birkdale in his only start since. T6 at Firestone in his debut in 2015. Withdrew during last year's return with an injured ankle. Consistently strong season figures to continue at Firestone where he has four top 10s, including in each of his last three starts. Ranks second on TOUR in adjusted scoring. Making his tournament debut and built for Firestone. In his first two WGCs, he finished T3 (Mexico) and second (Match Play). Cruised to victory in Ireland four weeks ago. Defending champ acknowledged that he's not yet 100 percent since Masters' fall. A T8 at Glen Abbey had to feel good, but Firestone shows no mercy. Something will give. Still winless since the Olympics, which is notable because he's recorded five top fives since. Also has four top fives in 11 spins at Firestone, three of which since 2012 Continues to tease with leaderboard appearances. Top 25s in all but two of his last 11 starts. Third in bogey avoidance. Top 20s in last two editions of the WGC-Bridgestone. Five top 20s at Firestone since 2010, including a victory in 2011. Authoring relatively quiet 2016-17 but still has logged four top 10s. Currently 15th in adjusted scoring. Just one top 20 in four tries (T12, 2014), but strides in on a T2-T14-T14 burst that began at Erin Hills. Nothing's changed tee to green where he's among the elite. Gobbles up tough tracks, so the ball-striker surprised no one with a T3 in his first attempt at Firestone last year. Coming off a T8 at Glen Abbey to extinguish an 0-for-2 slide. The mixed bag of a year is back in his good graces as he's 6-for-7 since THE PLAYERS with four top 20s. He logged top 20s in last three visits to Firestone (2013-2015). Strange year gets stranger for the 2014 champ who didn't play last two years. Promising T4 at Royal Birkdale overshadowed when he parted ways with his caddie this week. First appearance since 2012. Solo second at midpoint; finished T29. Chased Scottish Open title with a T4 at Royal Birkdale. Leads PGA TOUR in strokes gained: putting. Battled dizziness en route to T32 at Glen Abbey. Went T4-2nd in U.K. double prior to that. Superb slate at Firestone includes three top 10s and another two top 20s since 2010. Might be the exception to find his game at Firestone where he's posted four top 25s, including a personal-best T3 last year. Leads TOUR in strokes gained: around-the-green. A bit of a par-70 specialist who's gone cold over his last four starts. Proficient in every skill area, so the slump won't last. T16 in second appearance at Firestone last year. Always on the short list on par 70s. Top 15s in three of last four starts upon arrival. Top 25s in last three trips to Firestone; personal-best T10 last year. Seriously surging as he's after his first top 20 at Firestone. This is his fifth appearance. Playoff loss at Glen Abbey was third top 10 since the U.S. Open. Long-hitting ball-strikers can belly up to the table at Firestone. He left town with a top 20 after his last two visits (2014, 2015). Steady 2017 includes seven top 20s worldwide. The newlywed has only one top 20 here since 2008, but it was a runner-up finish in 2014 when he equaled the course record (61) in the second round. T2 recently in Germany. RANK PLAYER COMMENT POWER RANKINGS: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Tuesday's Fantasy Insider will include RBC Canadian Open champion Jhonattan Vegas, Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Justin Thomas and Louis Oosthuizen among other notables. As both host of a World Golf Championship and the precursor to the season's final major, Firestone checks both boxes as emphatically as any course every golfer in attendance will play all year. Last year, it ranked as the hardest in both fairways hit (44.33 percent) and greens in regulation (54.05 percent). And even when the 58 golfers who completed 72 holes were averaging just 9.73 GIR per round, they converted par breakers barely one-quarter of the time, slotting it seventh-hardest in that scoring statistic. The scoring average for the week established a nine-year-high of 71.416. The strongest winds of the week hit in the second round. Consider that William McGirt opened with 6-under 64 and Dustin Johnson eventually won the tournament at 6-under 274. Firestone is hard, but it's fair and it's consistent. Coincidentally, the most challenging winds this week are forecast to blow during the second round, but the most threatening element is severe weather. Thunderstorms on Thursday and Friday are all but guaranteed to impact the tournament, at least it would be surprising if they didn't develop. The risk diminishes significantly on the weekend when high temperatures will drop into the mid-70s. Firestone is also long. No other par 70 in a non-major comes close to matching its 7,400 yards. It has only two par fives, which are usually where the field can consider breaking par, but the par-5 16th was the No. 4-handicap hole last year at +0.180 strokes to par. The combination bentgrass-Poa greens have been prepped to max at 12-and-a-half feet on the Stimpmeter, but the unfavorable conditions figure to slow them a bit. That may encourage bold decisions even if it means landing drives and approaches in three-inch rough. Fairways widen with damp turf and softer greens are more receptive to shots with less spin than those struck from normal lies. With no cut, everyone who commits is guaranteed 72 holes. So, you can completely understand how Firestone sets up as exactly the kind of test on which the majority headed to Quail Hollow Club next week prefers to sharpen its game. ROB BOLTON’S WRITING SCHEDULE PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week’s event. Look for the following columns this week. MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings (WGC-Bridgestone) TUESDAY*: Power Rankings (Barracuda), Sleepers (WGC-Bridgestone), The Confidence Factor (WGC-Bridgestone), Fantasy Insider WEDNESDAY: One & Done (WGC-Bridgestone), One & Done (Barracuda) THURSDAY: Ownership Percentages in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf and One & Done presented by SERVPRO * - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO, which also publishes on Tuesdays.
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