The 40th event of the wraparound season is upon us, as the PGA Tour heads to Ohio for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. A field of 77 will tackle Firestone Country Club, where players will get in final preparations before the season's fourth major.
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Rory McIlroy won this event a year ago but is unable to defend because of injury. Here are 10 players to watch in Akron:
1. Jordan Spieth: With McIlroy unable to defend, Spieth is a clear favorite. While he failed to break 70 in his tournament debut last year, Spieth has cracked the top five in five of his last six starts, including a pair of wins and a near-miss at St. Andrews.
2. Jason Day: The Aussie has top-10 finishes in half of his 14 starts, including a stretch of three in a row that he culminated with a win in Canada. Day finished T-4 at Firestone in 2011, leads the Tour in birdie average and ranks second in driving distance.
3. Sergio Garcia: The Spaniard led for much of the way last year after firing a course-record 61 in the second round. He enters off a streak of four straight top-25 finishes that dates back to his playoff loss at TPC Sawgrass and includes a T-6 finish at St. Andrews.
4. Rickie Fowler: Fowler was a runner-up last week in Virginia, continuing a torrid summer stretch that began at the Players. He tied for second at Firestone in 2011 and finished T-8 last year after three rounds of 67.
5. Justin Rose: Rose finished T-4 in defense of his Quicken Loans title, his third top-10 finish in his last four starts. The Englishman has cracked the top five twice in the last three years, including last year's T-4 result, and he also was a runner-up in 2007.
6. Zach Johnson: The Open champ's win on the Old Course was his third straight top-10 finish and his seventh top-20 result over his last eight starts. Johnson is clearly brimming with confidence and now heads to a course where he finished T-4 in 2013 and T-6 in 2011.
7. Keegan Bradley: Bradley hasn't been heard from much this season, but he has shown signs of life this summer and has a stellar record at Firestone. He has top-30 finishes in four of his last six starts and followed his 2012 Bridgestone win with a runner-up in 2013 and a T-4 finish last year.
8. Adam Scott: Scott continues to thrive in his renewed partnership with caddie Steve Williams, with top-10 finishes at each of the past two majors. The Aussie won at Firestone in 2011 and finished inside the top 15 each of the past two years.
9. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama continues to impress with his consistency, now with a streak of 10 straight top-25 finishes that dates back to early February. He finished T-21 in his Firestone debut in 2013, then improved to a T-12 finish a year ago.
10. Jim Furyk: Furyk let one slip away at Firestone in 2012, but his overall record here includes three top-10 finishes among five straight top-25 results. After some mediocre results this summer, the veteran contended in Canada en route to a fourth-place finish in his last start.