The best golfers in the world are all in competition in the next two weeks. Jordan Spieth will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam in the USPGA Championship but before then the Bridgestone Invitational is a world golf championship event for the elite players of the sport. Sergio Garcia has an ideal skills’ profile for the South Course at Firestone which is the regular tournament host. Rory McIlroy also has the game to get in the mix.
The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational has a limited field of about 75 players. There is no cut so everyone receives a cheque. The WGC tournaments are just below the majors in terms of ranking points and prestige. Only five players have won each of the four majors at least once so Spieth may be focused on his shot at history in a week’s time so other players are preferred, including Sergio and to a lesser extent McIlroy.
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The Open champion is the ante post favourite this week but it’s less than a fortnight since he felt the pressure of competing at the business end of a major. The game was up for Spieth after his tee shot on the 13th hole at Royal Birkdale. It was a miracle the ball was found but Spieth took advantage of the rules, played from a good lie on the practice ground and escaped with a bogey. Spieth then played the next four holes in five under par to secure his first Open and third major in total.
The favourite does not have an ideal game for the South Course at Firestone. The layout is a long par 70 with six of the ten par 4s over 450 yards. Long it may be but it is forgiving off the tee, so putting a premium on first-class iron play to the small greens. One of the par 5s offers plenty of eagle and birdie opportunities while the signature hole is the massively long par 5 16th which is a true three shot hole. Spieth’s advantage on the greens is less marked on a track like the South Course.
No player in the field has won the Bridgestone Invitational more than once but there is one multiple champion in the history of the tournament. A certain Mister T Woods is an eight-time winner but sadly the former world number one is not in the right mental or physical condition to play this week. In fact Woods career might be over as the toil of hitting so many golf balls has caught up. He will retire as the second best player in the history of the sport after Nicklaus. Spieth has the talent to overhaul both with his career final total of majors.
Woods is currently the youngest player to win each of the majors but Spieth could set a new mark if he wins the USPGA Championship. Only Nicklaus was younger than Spieth when he had won three different majors. McIlroy (US Masters) and Phil Mickelson (US Open) are just one major short of joining the elite quintet of players who won each of the four titles that matter most. Garcia has only won the Masters but now he has got that monkey off his back could add to his tally.
The player formerly known as El Nino who could now be called El Hombre after winning the Masters has a game suited to Firestone. Garcia is one of the best iron players in the game so will be hitting more greens in regulation than most. Driving is not a major strength but Garcia can get away with some wayward driving this week. The small greens will not put so much pressure on putting than other venues where he has faltered on the greens.
McIlroy had a good Open Championship ultimately. He started badly but his caddie told him off and McIlroy recovered to finish fourth. The caddie has been sacked but McIlroy found some decent form and can contend this week. He excels in the key areas of finding greens in the correct number of shots and GIR putting. However, Garcia is best placed to win the 2017 Bridgestone Invitational.
Back next Thursday.