The third WGC event of 2013 is upon us as an elite field descends upon Akron, Ohio for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Firestone Country Club plays host to 73 of the world's best players, each looking to notch a victory before heading to Oak Hill for the PGA Championship next week.
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1. Tiger Woods: Outside of Bay Hill, Woods has dominated no other course as he has Firestone. Seven wins, the most recent coming in 2009, and a tie for eighth last year create an unrivaled set of credentials this week. Injury concerns were (largely) answered with his T-6 finish at Muirfield, and Woods' placement this week as an overwhelming favorite is justified.
2. Adam Scott: Teeing it up for the first time since a T-3 finish at the British Open, Scott returns to Firestone where he scored a resounding victory in 2011. Clearly in the midst of a breakthrough campaign, Scott ranks third on the PGA Tour in scoring average, 13th in total driving and 17th in the all-around ranking.
3. Keegan Bradley: The defending champion quietly notched a T-15 result in Scotland and also tied for 15th in this event in 2011. Bradley has yet to enter the winner's circle yet this year, but his solid 2013 campaign includes 10 top-25 finishes in 19 starts. Expect more of the same this week in Akron.
4. Matt Kuchar: Ho-hum, another top-10 finish. Kuchar's runner-up in Canada was his seventh top-10 finish in just 17 starts this year, a season in which he is one of only four players with multiple PGA Tour titles to their name. He's been equally consistent at Firestone, posting three top-20 finishes in three starts highlighted by his tie for eighth a year ago.
5. Phil Mickelson: His record in this event is less than stellar, but then again, the same was said of his British Open credentials before his three-shot win at Muirfield. On either side of the Pond, Mickelson is in the midst of an incredible year, with three wins in addition to four other top-three finishes. Clearly oozing with confidence, Mickelson leads the PGA Tour in birdie average and currently sits eighth in the all-around ranking.
6. Henrik Stenson: While Mickelson received credit for his two wins in Scotland, Stenson quietly compiled a T-3 at the Scottish Open and a runner-up finish at Muirfield. The Swede is in the midst of a steady comeback to the form that won him the 2009 Players Championship, as Stenson now leads the Tour in driving accuracy and sits second in GIR percentage.
7. Lee Westwood: The Englishman is making his first start since his near-miss at the British Open, and time will tell whether that wound has begun to heal. There's reason to think he'll bounce back in Akron, though, as Westwood has notched top-10 finishes at Firestone in three of the last five years, including a runner-up finish in 2008.
8. Jason Day: The Aussie has recorded a solid finish in each of his three starts in this event, most notably a tie for fourth in 2011. With top-three finishes at each of the first two majors this year, Day clearly enjoys performing on the game's biggest stages; though he's been battling minor injury over the past few weeks, it hasn't stopped him from notching solid finishes at both the AT&T National (T-21) and British Open (T-32) since his runner-up at Merion.
9. Hideki Matsuyama: The Japanese sensation has been in the rankings three straight weeks and there is no reason to take him out now. Matsuyama chased a T-6 finish in Scotland with a T-16 result in Canada, continuing his impressive early form across a wide variety of course layouts. Though his early-round pairing with Woods could prove problematic, expect the 21-year-old to turn some heads this week with his solid play.
10. Jim Furyk: Amid a disappointing season, Furyk showed signs of life with last weeks top-10 finish at the RBC Canadian Open, his first such result since April. A runner-up here last year, the former major champion has eight top 10s at Firestone in 13 career starts and has not been shy about sharing just how much he wants to win this event specifically. Slipping in the U.S. Presidents Cup standings by the day, a good showing this week would certainly be timely.