This week marks the 38th event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as the Tour heads to Ohio for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. An elite field of 76 players will tee it up this week at Firestone Country Club, with the season's final major now just one week away.
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Tiger Woods returns to defend the title he won here a year ago by seven shots over Keegan Bradley and Henrik Stenson. Here are 10 names to watch this week in Akron:
1. Rory McIlroy: No reason to back off McIlroy now that he's making his first start as Open champion. The Ulsterman has finished no worse than T-25 all season long on the PGA Tour, and now he heads to Akron with unlimited confidence. Despite a pedantic record at Firestone, he's the odds-on favorite for a reason this week.
2. Adam Scott: Scott won here in 2011, the highlight of a trio of top-15 finishes since 2010. The Aussie tied for fifth at Royal Liverpool despite getting the short end of the draw, his fourth consecutive top-10 finish on the PGA Tour dating back to his playoff win at Colonial.
3. Jim Furyk: Furyk came agonizingly close to ending his four-year winless drought last week in Canada, but his runner-up finish in Montreal was still his third such result this year and fourth top-five showing in his last seven starts. He has three top-10 finishes in the last four years at Firestone, including T-2 in 2012, and is fifth on Tour in scoring average.
4. Justin Rose: Rose tied for 23rd at the Open, a solid follow-up to back-to-back wins at Congressional and Royal Aberdeen. He was a runner-up at Firestone in 2007 and tied for fifth as recently as 2012. Rose has 10 top-25 finishes in 14 PGA Tour starts this season, and the overall consistency of his game should be rewarded this week in Akron.
5. Rickie Fowler: Fowler notched a second consecutive runner-up finish in a major two weeks ago in England, and is playing with some serious momentum for a player whose last win came in 2012. Fowler has cracked the top 15 in his last four worldwide starts and now tees it up on a course where he tied for second in 2011.
6. Keegan Bradley: Bradley tied for second last year in defense of his Bridgestone title from 2012, and he has broken par in 10 of his 12 competitive rounds at Firestone. His T-19 finish at the Open came on the heels of a tie for fourth at the Greenbrier, and Bradley now has 11 top-20 finishes this season.
7. Jordan Spieth: Spieth is making his first appearance at Firestone, but he's been a model of consistency this season, with eight top-20 finishes in his last 10 starts dating back to his runner-up finish at the Masters. As 2013 showed, a lack of course knowledge is no reason to doubt this 21-year-old.
8. Henrik Stenson: The Swede was a runner-up here a year ago, a result that came in the midst of a torrid stretch that yielded him both the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai titles. While he failed to contend at Royal Liverpool, Stenson does appear to have found his footing after a shaky start to 2014 and enters this week ranked fifth on Tour in total driving.
9. Brendon Todd: While he is making his first appearance at Firestone, Todd may be the hottest American player right now. His T-39 finish at Hoylake was respectable, but it was also his worst finish since May, as the 29-year-old ran off five straight top-20 finishes after his win in Dallas. He enters this week ranked third on Tour in strokes gained putting and fifth in scrambling.
10. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar quietly notched a T-4 finish last week in Canada, his 10th top-10 finish in just 19 starts this season. Kuchar has a solid track record at Firestone, with a pair of top-10 finishes since 2010 and no result worse than T-27 across that stretch.