Established in 1999 and sponsored by NEC up until 2005, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational has been held in Akron, Ohio each year at Firestone Country Club South Course “The Monster”. It received this nickname in 1960 from Arnold Palmer after his third round of the PGA Championship where he triple-bogeyed number 16 and later called it a “monster”.
The course is a par 70 and stretches to a lengthy 7,400 yards. There are only two par 5’s, one of which being 667 yards (16th hole), four par 3’s, and twelve par 4’s. Three of the par 3’s are 200 yards or longer, and seven of the par 4’s are 464 yards or longer. The only true eagle scoring opportunities come on hole number 2 (par 5), so it might be more useful to look at birdie average instead of birdie or better percentage. Also, par 4 scoring average will be crucial because they make up twelve of the eighteen holes.
Due to the length of this course driving distance will be important with many players electing to hit driver on most holes, but SG: off the tee will be just as important if not more so: Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, and Henrik Stenson have all finished runner-up here, so accuracy with the driver can be just as vital for success as distance.
Getting to the greens in regulation is a big indicator on who has done well in this tournament in the past. Also shooting -2 through -5 might get a golfer into the top 10 so there will be a lot of bogeys floating around, being able to avoid these will be helpful.
The field is filled with talent so recent form will be a good indicator on who will be able to post favorable scores here and since this event is held here every year, course history could also play a factor.
- Par 4 Scoring Average
- SG: off the tee
- Driving Distance
- Driving Accuracy
- SG: total
- Birdie Average
- Bogey Avoidance
The field is set at 73 golfers following the conclusion of The Canadian Open. Among them is the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings, where Byeong-Hun An sneaks in at 40th after his T2 on Sunday. Eight-time winner Tiger Woods just slides in as well after finishing T6 at The Open Championship. Winners of certain tournaments in the last year that meet the strength of field criteria are going to be joining the top 50 as well as the members of the 2017 Presidents Cup teams.
This will be the last time this event is held in Akron, next year it will be moved to Memphis so what better storyline than Tiger winning at Firestone Country Club South Course at its final WGC.
Big Dogs ($8,600 and up on DraftKings)
- Dustin Johnson ($11,700 DK, $12,700 FD) – DJ is coming off a win and won back here in 2016, I could go through his stats but that would be overkill at this point.
- Justin Rose ($11,300 DK, $12,100 FD) – Mr. Rose hasn’t finished outside of the top 10 in his last five events. The last two years at Firestone South haven’t been great for him but before that he was 3rd in 2015 and 4th in 2014. He’s T1 at par 4 scoring, 4th at birdie average and 5th at bogey avoidance.
- Rickie Fowler ($10,000 DK, $11,300 FD) – a true horse for the course, he was in the top 10 each of his last four times playing in this event. Rickie is also T6 at par 4 scoring and 4th at bogey avoidance.
- Francesco Molinari ($9,400 DK, $11,200 FD) – he doesn’t have a great track record at this course but Moli is in the middle of the best stretch of golf he’s ever had so it doesn’t matter. He’s 2nd at SG: off the tee and 16th at GIR this year, which is pretty much the key stats for this week.
- Henrik Stenson ($9,000 DK, $11,500 FD) – in his last four attempts at the Bridgestone Invitational Henrik hasn’t finished worse than 19th. He’s 1st at SG: approaching the green, bogey avoidance, and GIR while also being 3rd in SG: off the tee and par 4 scoring.
- Paul Casey ($8,600 DK, $10,800 FD) – one of the most consistent golfers on tour Casey also plays well here, his last three finishes have been 5th, 16th, and 17th. Paul is also an excellent ball striker coming in at 8th in SG: off the tee and 6th at SG: approaching the green.
- Tiger Woods ($10,800 DK, $11,300 FD) – his last two tournaments were 6th (Open Championship) and 4th (Quicken Loans National). Tiger is an eight-time winner here and his only downfall is being 166th at driving accuracy but he is still 6th at SG: off the tee.
- Jordan Spieth ($10,400 DK, $11,400 FD) – Jordan finally looked like he’s starting to put it all back together at the Open Championship where he finished in 9th place. He’s had great success here and is T3 at par 4 scoring and T5 at GIR.
- Jon Rahm ($9,600 DK, $10,900 FD) – he’s missed cuts at back-to-back majors now and this tournament has a major-like feel so that scares me a bit but he has great scoring potential at this track. Rahm has two recent 5th place finishes and a 4th place finish and is 2nd in birdie average as well as T3 in par 4 scoring.
- Tommy Fleetwood ($9,200 DK, $11,400 FD) – he’s a great driver of the ball, T12 at SG: off the tee, 27th at driving distance, and 47th at driving accuracy. That and the fact that he’s 8th at birdie average should give him a chance at Firestone.
- Justin Thomas ($8,800 DK, $11,400 FD) – he’s coming off an 80th at the Open Championship but hasn’t placed worse than 33rd here. Thomas is 4th in SG: off the tee, 5th in birdie average, T6 in par 4 scoring, 7th in SG: approaching the greens and 9th in driving distance so if he can keep it in play and knock down putts he’ll be in contention.
Value ($8,500 – $7,500 on DraftKings)
- Patrick Cantlay ($8,200 DK, $9,700 FD) – he’s made 18 out of his last 20 cuts and in his last two tournaments he was 12th and 15th. Cantlay is 9th in SG: off the tee and inside the top 30 in GIR, SG: approaching the green, SG: around the green, and birdie average.
- Zach Johnson ($8,100 DK, $9,800 FD) – ZJ is in prime form with his last four events being 19th place or better. He also likes playing at this course with his last five starts being inside of 34th place with three top 10’s.
- Tony Finau ($8,000 DK, $10,600 FD) – the difference in his price from DK to FD shows that he might be a high ownership in DK. Tony has been great this year and has a top 10 in each of the three majors so far. Outside of his putting and driving accuracy he is a very well-rounded golfer that can hit the deep ball.
- Charley Hoffman ($7,500 DK, $9,100 FD) – he finished 3rd here last year and has been in the top 30 in each of his last five events. Charley’s best stat is T51 in par 4 scoring so even with his good form and course history coming in, I see him as a high floor – somewhat low ceiling play.
- Bubba Watson ($8,500 DK, $10,000 FD) – Bubbs is coming off two missed cuts so he might be flying under the radar at this price. He has a good course history and a couple wins already this year. He’s also T13 at GIR and T18 in par 4 scoring.
- Hideki Matsuyama ($8,400 DK, $10,200 FD) – the defending champ has looked okay at times this year but overall is down. Hideki has also missed his last two cuts but before that he was 16th at the U.S. Open and 13th at the Memorial with good course history at Firestone and is T12 in par 4 scoring.
- Patrick Reed ($8,300 DK, $11,300 FD) – he won the Master’s and finished 4th at the U.S. Open so he’s no stranger to the big moment. Reed has had success here in the past, 4th in 2014 and 15th in 2015, and he’s T18 in par 4 scoring.
- Bryson Dechambeau ($7,800 DK, $10,200 FD)- it’s hard to tell if his blow up and handshake controversy at the European Open last week will affect him but he was clearly past his shoulder injury. Bryson is 18th or better in birdie average, SG: off the tee, SG: approaching the green, and par 4 scoring. At this price he could end up being a steal.
- Matt Kuchar ($7,700 DK, $10,500 FD) – Kuch has now missed three of his last four cuts, this is unheard of. He has been great in this event in the past but the same could be said about the Canadian Open last week where he missed the cut. He did finish 9th at the Open Championship so maybe he just forgot to change his Sketchers.
- Webb Simpson ($7,600 DK, $10,700 FD) – mainly high floor play here, Webb is T7 at bogey avoidance and T126 at birdie average. He hasn’t played here in several years but was pretty solid and he’s a great putter (6th SG: putting) and T12 in par 4 scoring so he might be able to sneak a top 15.
- Louis Oosthuizen ($7,500 DK, $9,800 FD) – great form coming into the tournament but I don’t see Louie “the escape artist” being a great fit for this course and his history here shows that. But he did place 5th, 13th, 16th, and 28th in his last four events.
- Adam Scott ($7,500 DK, $9,500 FD) – putting and scoring in general have been tough for Adam as of late but he’s a good ball striker, 7th SG: off the tee, 10th SG: approaching the green, and 4th in GIR, and has a great record here.
- Thorbjorn Olesen ($7,500 DK, $8,100 FD) – he was 10th here last year and has pretty good form coming in. Olesen finished 1st at the Italian Open, 6th at the Irish Open, and 12th at the Open Championship. But the other two of his most recent five starts not mentioned were missed cuts.
Sleepers ($7,400 and under on DraftKings)
- Byeong-Hun An ($8,400 DK, $7,400 FD) – he’s coming off a T2 at the Canadian Open where he was 2nd only to the world number 1 Dustin Johnson. Byeong has played here twice, both not the best performances, but he knows the course and he’s a great driver at 18th in SG: off the tee and 16th at driving distance.
- Russell Knox ($7,300 DK, $8,700 FD) – Russell might be best described as the off-brand Zach Johnson, which sounds like more of an insult than intended: he doesn’t hit it a long ways but he’s accurate. 8th in GIR, 21st in bogey avoidance, and T32 in par 4 scoring paired with a 5th place finish here last year and a recent 1st and 2nd place finish make him a viable option for this price tag.
- Ian Poulter ($7,300 DK, $9,100 FD) – Poulter saved his disastrous performance at the Open Championship with a 12th at the Canadian Open. He’s safe off the tee and into the green, 31st in driving accuracy, 25th in SG: off the tee, and 19th at SG: approaching the green.
- Kevin Na ($7,200 DK, $8,600 FD) – Kevin won at the Greenbrier and in his last three trips to Firestone hasn’t finished worse than 27th. He’s great at gaining strokes around the greens (5th), avoiding bogeys (20th), and is solid on par 4’s (T32).
- Emiliano Grillo ($7,100 DK, $8,200 FD) – he’s missed the cut at his last three majors so maybe he can’t play with the big boys. Emiliano did finish 14th here two years ago and is top 25 in eight of the statistical categories that are highly important for this course so I still think Grillo is going to have his moment.
- Phil Mickelson ($7,400 DK, $10,400 FD) – Phil might be a better play on DraftKings vs. Fanduel due to the pricing difference. He’s been terrible off the tee (T200 at driving accuracy) but if he can get that under control he is 2nd in SG: putting, 3rd in birdie average, and T12 at par 4 scoring.
- Brian Harman ($7,000 DK, $8,900 FD) – out of everyone $7,000 and under he has the best chance of placing in the top 10. Harman is T12 in par 4 scoring, 15th SG: putting, and 18th in driving accuracy.
- Austin Cook ($7,000 DK, $7,700 FD) – in his last three events he hasn’t placed outside of 34th. Cook is also 34th or better in SG: putting, bogey avoidance, par 4 scoring, driving accuracy, and birdie average.
- Kevin Chappell ($7,300 DK, $9,300 FD) – he pounds the ball off the tee and is coming off a T6 at the Open Championship but the main draw is his 3rd and 13th place finishes here the last two years.
- Adam Hadwin ($6,900 DK, $8,400 FD) – Hadwin has been so-so lately and his stat line is pretty middle of the road but he did finish 5th here last year.
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