WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Betting Preview

Tiger Woods (Courtesy: myophoto)

Tiger Woods (Courtesy: myophoto)

Tiger Woods is the heavy favourite this week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, as he looks to win his eighth career title at Firestone against a loaded field in Akron, Ohio.
 
2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Fact Sheet

  • Course: Firestone CC – South Course
  • Location: Akron, Ohio
  • Yardage: 7,400 yards, par 70
  • Defending Champion: Keegan Bradley
  • Five Consensus Favourites: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker and Justin Rose

TV Schedule:

  • Thursday – 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Friday – 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday – 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (CBS)
  • Sunday – 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (CBS)

Key Storyline This Week
 
Firestone has always been considered one of those “Tiger Tracks”, along with other places like Torrey Pines and Bay Hill. Rightfully so, as he does have seven wins on the layout since he started coming here in 1997. In fact, in eleven events from 1997 to 2009, he finished no worse than fifth, which might be even more impressive than his seven wins, but there is a problem here. That last win came in 2009, and in twelve rounds since, he’s only broken 70 three times. Two of those three rounds did come on the weekend last year though, leading to his T8.
 
He comes into the tournament this week in an interesting spot, as he still has more wins (four) than anyone else worldwide, but the questions are still being asked about his major championship performances, despite two top-10’s in 2013. Realistically, those questions are going to be present until he wins one again, but that’s a discussion for next week at the PGA Championship. Right now, he’s the heavy favourite at a place that he has shown a ridiculous level of dominance at in the past. As always when he tees it up, he’s the main focus this week.
 
Firestone CC
 
Firestone was given the nickname “The Monster” by Arnold Palmer back in 1960 when the course first hosted the PGA Championship, and even though it’s not as long as some courses on the schedule these days, the par-70 scorecard suggests that it’s still a beast. Long par-4’s and one of the longest par-5’s anywhere in the world, the 667-yard 16th, allow the par-70 design to get to an even 7,400 yards. You’d think that would suggest bigger hitters have the advantage, and certainly the winners list with names like Woods, Adam Scott and Keegan Bradley suggest that, but in previous years, the leaders in par-5 scoring average have been names like Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Aaron Baddeley and Retief Goosen. The common thread between the winners over the last five years is a combination of good GIR numbers and solid putting. The other thing to look at is the numbers of the guys who take advantage of the par-4’s. In each of the last five years, the winner has been no worse than tenth in par-4 scoring average, which you’d think would happen on every course, but it’s especially valuable here considering the length of the par-4’s on the course.
 
Most famous shot in tournament history? Tiger Woods back in 2000, hitting a crazy good iron into the 18th on Sunday, while in the pitch dark. He would end up winning by 11 strokes.
 
Tiger-in-the-dark
 
Thoughts On The Favourites

  • Tiger Woods: We already talked about Woods at length, and he deserves to be a massive favourite, but at 4.5-1 right now, it’s not worth it. There’s tons of value elsewhere on the board, but you have to think that he’ll be there in the thick of it on Sunday.
  • Phil Mickelson: Mickelson is of course coming off of back-to-back wins in Scotland at the Scottish Open and the Open Championship, and he’s actually got a good track record at Firestone, finishing inside the top-10 seven times since 1996, when he won the event. The problem is only one of those top-10’s has come in the last decade, and winning three tournaments in a row is something that we shouldn’t be expecting.
  • Adam Scott: Scott had another Open Championship heartbreak a couple of weeks ago, as he carried the lead on the back nine at Muirfield on Sunday, but couldn’t hang on as Mickelson demolished the last half of the course. He won here back in 2011 after a stunning opening round 62, going wire to wire for the win. Ended up tied for third at Muirfield, and this is one of the few courses that he comes back to every year, making an appearance annually since 2003.
  • Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker is coming off of a win at the RBC Canadian Open, and has quietly reeled off four straight top-20 finishes, regaining a good part of his form from early in 2013 before he was sidelined with a rib injury. With how good of a putter he is, you’d think he’d be a good fit for Firestone’s lightning fast greens, but his T33 in 2011 remains his best finish in three appearances at the event.
  • Justin Rose: Rose has never missed a cut at Firestone in seven tries, finishing as the runner-up in 2007, and ending up tied for 5th last year. Missed the cut at the Open in his last tournament, but was on a run of good form prior to that.

Suggested Plays
 
Rory McIlroy (Best Odds 28-1 at bet365)
Everyone who does golf betting previews has picked McIlroy in recent weeks because of good value, and I guess it’s my turn this week. I actually saw him at 33-1 right after the Canadian Open, so it’s coming down a little bit. Here’s the thing: Yes, he’s struggling based on expectations, but his season hasn’t been that bad. He’s only broken 70 once since the PLAYERS though, which explains the value here. He’s finished inside the top-10 at Firestone in each of the last three years, and I’m thinking it’s his breakout this week.
 
Steve Stricker (Best Odds 33-1 at Betway)
Firestone is a Tiger track, but Stricker has done pretty well here too, with four top-10 finishes and two runner-ups, including last year to Keegan Bradley. He hasn’t won yet in 2013 but his limited schedule hasn’t affected him as much as some people thought, myself included. He’s a great putter who just won’t put himself in too many bad spots, which is perfect for Firestone.
 
Jason Day (Best Odds 33-1 at Stan James)
Day has made over $2.6 million this season and has yet to win a tournament. He’s been close though with five top-10’s, and no missed cuts. He’s too good of a player to go winless and 33-1 is tremendous value, especially when you consider a solid track record at Firestone, including a T4 back in 2011.
 
Angel Cabrera (Best Odds 70-1 at bwin)
Cabrera just shows up at big events, right? Well, even though this isn’t a major, it’s pretty much as big as it gets outside of those four tournaments. He’s had no worse than a T13 in his last three starts, and he usually plays well here at Firestone. No missed cuts, and three top-4’s since 2004.
 
Rickie Fowler (Best Odds 77-1 at BETDAQ)
So, Fowler hasn’t had the kind of year that we all expected of him, but he’s coming to a place that he enjoys. He finished as the runner-up to Adam Scott here in 2011, and if it wasn’t for a second round 80, he would have been right in the thick of it on the weekend last year as well. Coming off of a missed cut at the Open, but he was on a solid run prior to that, so I like my chances here on an each-way at 77-1.
 
Ryan Moore (Best Odds 104-1 at Betfair)
Moore’s my long shot for no specific reason except that he seems to be playing decent enough over the past few weeks. The final round 79 at Muirfield aside, he hasn’t had a round above 72 since the U.S. Open, and he likes the track, with a pair of top-25’s in his two appearances. Good ball striker, who can get real hot with the putter, and when you consider some of the other names around him at 100-1, this looks like a steal.

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