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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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.