Playing Favorites Challenging Tiger at Firestone

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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