Playing Favorites Challenging Tiger at Firestone

By Sports NetworkJuly 31, 2007, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio -- Tiger Woods is a pretty good bet to win this week's World Golf Championships event.
Woods has won the Bridgestone Invitational five of the eight times it has been played since 1999, including last year's playoff victory over 2004 winner Stewart Cink, which came in the middle of Woods' long winning streak.
He has, of course, occasionally allowed others to walk away with this title. Cink's win in '04 marked the third straight year Woods failed to win (Craig Parry and Darren Clarke were victorious in '02 and '03).
His dominance in this event is made all the more impressive considering who it comes against: yearly, the best players in the world line up to play. This year's field is no different. All the usual suspects will be on hand, including each of the 2007 major winners so far (Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera and Padraig Harrington).
Keep an eye on Phil Mickelson, who has missed three of four cuts since withdrawing from the Memorial with a left wrist injury. The PGA Championship is next week, and Mickelson is emerging as an early sleeper pick in some circles.
We know: Mickelson a sleeper? He is when he's playing this inconsistently.
GOLF CHANNEL will have coverage of the first two rounds of the Bridgestone from 2-6 p.m. ET on Thursday and Friday. CBS will broadcast for five hours on both weekend days beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
This is the third and final WGC event of the season. Henrik Stenson and Woods won the previous two.
Woods will defend his title at the PGA Championship next week. There are no competing events on the PGA or European tours while the players are at Southern Hills.
Here are our Tour Trade 2 favorites this week, with a look at their past performances in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. We also offer up a few more guys worth keeping an eye on at Firestone Country Club.
Tiger Woods
Starts: 8
Wins: 5
Top-10s: 8
Best finish: Win (1999-01; 2005-06)
TRADE Talk: Eight appearances, five wins, no finishes outside the top 4. If youre ever need a definition of dominance just look up Tiger Woods results at Firestone. Woods hasnt won on TOUR since the Wachovia Championship in May. Thats a stretch of five tournaments without a victory. He hasnt had six straight winless events on TOUR since his one-win season of 2004.
Stewart Cink
Starts: 7
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 3
Best finish: Win (2004)
TRADE Talk: Cink claimed his biggest professional title here in 2004. He nearly added another Bridgestone trophy to his mantle last year, losing in a playoff to Woods. Cink had a couple of golden opportunities to win a year ago, but was unable to convert some key putts. He hasnt yet won this season, but he does have top-10 finishes in some of the most prestigious events: British Open; PLAYERS Championship; Memorial; Wachovia Championship; WGC-Accenture Match Play.
Jim Furyk
Starts: 8
Wins: 0
Top-10s: 6
Best finish: Runner-up (2001)
TRADE Talk: Wed like to be more creative here, but its just impossible not to consider Furyk a favorite once again. He has only twice finished outside of the top 10 in Akron, and, like Cink a year ago, lost to Woods in a dramatic playoff in 01. In 18 starts this year, he has eight top-10 finishes. And, for the first time this year, we can say that actually includes a win. Furyk successfully defended his title in the Canadian Open. He'll likely contend for another victory this week.
Angel Cabrera
Starts: 5
Wins: 0
Top-10s: 2
Best finish: T4 (2004, 06)
TRADE Talk: Cabrera plays well in big events, as evidenced by his U.S. Open triumph. Cabrera has had some good results in this WGC event with a pair of fourth-place showings over the last three years.
Vijay Singh
Starts: 7
Wins: 0
Top-10s: 2
Best finish: T3 (2005)
TRADE Talk: Singh has never won this tournament, but thats not a big knock against him when considering only three players not named Woods have ever won it. He is coming off a runner-up showing last week, where he held the 54-hole lead in the Canadian Open.
Four more players to keep an eye on at Firestone Country Club:
Davis Love III:
Love has had a pretty abysmal season. He has only two top-10s all year and hasnt made a cut since the Colonial in May. But he may be able to gain some momentum this week. Love has only once finished outside the top 15 at Firestone in eight career starts. He has finished in the top 4 in three of the last four years.
David Toms:
Toms has had only one winless campaign on TOUR over the last eight full seasons. But hes close to making it two. Toms has had seven top-10s this year, but is without a victory. He has finished in the top 10 in each of his last three starts at the Bridgestone.
Padraig Harrington:
Harrington will be making his first start since being crowned Champion Golfer of the Year. Hes never had much success in this event, with his best finish a tie for 12th in 1999. But hes never had this much confidence either.
Hunter Mahan:
Mahan is competing in his first WGC event. So, why then is he among the favorites? It has to do with his recent performance. Over his last four tournaments, Mahan has gone Win-T8-T6-T5.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Bridgestone Invitational
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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

    Getty Images

    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.