This week: Firestone, Reno and France
In case you haven’t seen these previews before, I come at them from the standpoint of whether or not it’s worth your time to tune in based on a variety of factors. Field strength, TV schedule (North America) and the course are the three main factors at play when discussing the watchability of each event, along with whatever notes I can dig up that contributes to its quality. Each event is then given a Miller score (because Johnny Miller really is the best) out of ten. I usually only focus on the PGA and European Tours because that’s where my knowledge tends to sit.
This week: The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the Barracuda Championship and the Open de France.
- Event: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational
- Course: Firestone CC – South Course (1929 – Bert Way, with a redesign in 1960 by Robert Trent Jones
- Location: Akron, Ohio
- Five Consensus Favourites: Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott
- TV Schedule:
- Thursday: 1:30 PM to 6:30 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Friday: 1:30 PM to 6:30 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Saturday: 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM ET (Golf Channel) and 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (CBS)
- Sunday: 12:00 to 1:30 PM ET (Golf Channel) and 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (CBS)
When the World Golf Championships were created in 1999, the goal was pretty simple: bring the best players in the world together, regardless of tour, for a few tournaments each year that would essentially act as golf’s “second tier” events behind the major championships. For the most part, it’s been successful, with the best players coming out to the four WGC events each year where the limited fields ensure no cut and a guaranteed paycheque after four days of golf. This year though, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational has a slightly different feel to it.
Thanks to the Olympics throwing the schedule for a loop, the Bridgestone was scheduled the same week as the European Tour’s French Open, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. As a result, the European Tour decided not to sanction the Bridgestone for the first time in tournament history, and several of the top European players, including Rory McIlroy were persuaded to head to Paris instead of Akron. Sounds like a smart idea to me.
The field in Akron is still very good though, which you can tell by looking at the top five favourites and it’s a good thing that’s the case because, well, Firestone stinks.
All of the holes look the same, with tree lined fairways and slight doglegs, and it just doesn’t get you excited to watch the tournament in any way. Last year, the fairways were so hard that everyone was hitting driver-wedge into every green, including Jim Furyk, so that didn’t help matters either. Throw in the fact that CBS doesn’t have Feherty going crazy over what Tiger’s doing on the course and the broadcast could be in trouble. The field is too good to ignore though, so you should make some time for the event this week, even though you’ll feel like you just keep seeing the exact same hole over and over again for five hours.
The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational earns a score of 6 Millers out of 10.
- Event: Barracuda Championship
- Course: Montreux Golf and Country Club (1997 – Jack Nicklaus)
- Location: Reno, Nevada
- Five Consensus Favourites: Gary Woodland, Brendan Steele, Jon Rahm, Colt Knost and Tony Finau
- TV Schedule (tape delay):
- Thursday: 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Friday: 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Saturday: 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Sunday: 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
Friend of the website Tron Carter would tell you, unironically, that Reno is the fifth major and deserving of the live spot on the broadcast instead of tape delay. This event doesn’t have the star power of the other two this week, but it’s super, super interesting if you’re a hardcore golf fan. There’s always a ton of birdies at this event, and because of the stableford scoring system, it really feels like guys tend to be more aggressive than normal since anything worse than a bogey just costs them three points instead of actual strokes.
As I’m sure many of you know, there’s been disastrous flooding in the West Virginia area, particularly around Greenbrier, which has led to the cancellation of next week’s PGA Tour event. The Greenbrier was set to award a spot to the Open Championship to the highest finishing non-qualified player, but since the event won’t be taking place, the Barracuda will be granting that spot and with the quality, young bombers in the field, that’s a very good thing. Who wouldn’t want to see Tony Finau or Patrick Rodgers at Troon? Plus, seeing more of Jon Rahm is a good thing, and the course is actually fun, which you don’t see very often of a later Nicklaus design. The scenery is nice with lots of elevation change, and it always seems like a much more enjoyable watch than it should be for an alternate field event.
Having said all that, the broadcast times aren’t kind and when you factor in that the field, while interesting to fanatic golf fans, just isn’t anything special, it’s hard to recommend that you watch this more than the other two stops this week.
The Barracuda Championship earns a score of 5 Millers out of 10.
- Event: Open de France
- Course: Le Golf National (1990 – Hubert Chesneau)
- Location: Paris, France
- Five Consensus Favourites: Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Danny Willett, Lee Westwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick
- TV Schedule:
- Thursday: 4:30 AM to 7:30 AM ET and 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Friday: 4:30 AM to 7:30 AM ET and 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Saturday: 7:30 AM to 11:30 AM ET (Golf Channel)
- Sunday: 7:30 AM to 12:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
I’ve always been a fan of this tournament because it seems to draw a good field, and it’s even stronger this year than it has been in years past. McIlroy is obviously the big fish, lured to France by Keith Pelley to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the event instead of playing in the WGC, but even after him, the field is solid and they’ll be playing a course that is typically very tough on the players. Last year was the only year in the last five where the winning score, Bernd Wiesberger’s -13, reached double digits under par. Why is that?
Le Golf National isn’t the standard course that you see on the European Tour in that it’s very much designed like a typical American stadium course, with thick rough and large grandstands surrounding the entire layout. The greens are big and there is danger looming on much of the back nine, with water covering a vast majority of the closing stretch and due to its length, driver is required, forcing players to be both long and straight from the tee. It’s for these reasons, and because it will present very well on television, that it was the perfect choice to host the Ryder Cup in 2018, so if you’re looking for a sneak peak, this is as good of a time as any.
Admittedly, you’ll have to get up early if you live in North America to watch a lot of the coverage, but it’s probably the most fun tournament of the week to watch, so it may be worth it. And if McIlroy is in contention on the weekend, it’s absolutely appointment viewing.
The Barracuda Championship earns a score of 8 Millers out of 10.