We are a week away from the final Major of the year and three weeks away from the FedEx Cup Playoffs. It’s Fantasy Golf crunch time and I’m here to help. The WGC Bridgestone Invitational is this week, played in Akron, Ohio. The course is Firestone Country Club AKA Tiger Woods East. Tiger has won here seven times, and the tournament record of 21-under par is also in his name (2001).
73 of the best players will tee it up this week. Well, not exactly thee 73 best players. You have players that snuck into the tournament like Tommy Gainey, Derek Ernst, and Jaco Van Zyl to name a few.
Firestone Country Club is a 7,400 yard Par 70 course. There are certainly courses on Tour that are longer than 7,400 yards but not many of them are Par 70s. In terms of Yards per Par, this is the equivalent of a 7,600 yard Par 72 course. It’s long. This course is no easy-pickins, either. The field average over the past five years has been 0.57 strokes over par. That means the winner this week will likely be in the 8 to 14 under range. Forget the small talk, lets start talking picks for this week:
Tiger Woods: This is his tournament. Tiger has won 7 of the 13 times this tournament has been played here. He wasn’t in the field in 2008 so make that 7 of 12. If the tournament is played on paper, Tiger wins this week with a score of 12-under par. It’s not played on paper, though. They make these golfers play for a reason. Tiger hasn’t won this even since 2009, so don’t pencil him in for the win just yet.
Rory McIlroy: My gut tells me this is Rory’s tournament to win. Rory has been rather mediocre this year, but four Top 10s in 11 events is nothing to sneeze at, either. The length of this course is going to fit Rory’s game perfectly. 11 of his 16 Firestone rounds have been shot under par. That is the highest percentage of all golfers with a minimum of 12 rounds played here. Welcome back, Rory.
Martin Laird: Just like Rory, this has been a mediocre year for Laird. He did win at the Valero Texas Open but has also missed 6 cuts in his 17 starts this year. That is way too many cuts missed for a player of Laird’s caliber. Laird has finished 29th, 11th and 16th the last three years here. A perfect tournament for Laird to turn his season around.
Graeme McDowell: Only has 3 rounds under par at Firestone in 20 attempts. That is terrible. Just forget about Graeme this week, because it will be a miracle if he competes.
Phil Mickelson: Another great golfer that you should forget about this week. Course History isn’t everything but sometimes it can’t be ignored. 70% of Mickelson’s 36 rounds at Firestone have been Par or worse. You need at least three rounds under par to win this event, so the odds are against Phil this week. Phil is on a high right now, so he’s due to come back down anyway.
Jim Furyk: Furyk was floating out to sea, appearing to be lost, but he found his way back home last week with a T9 at Glen Abbey. Now its time for Jimmy to kick it into high gear. He is usually a slow starter, but this is even later than usual. Better late than never. Furyk has the more rounds under par at Firestone (21) than anyone in the field. Yes, even more than Tiger (19). Should be a great week for Furyk this week. A win is not out of the equation.
Steve Stricker: Quality over quantity is the mantra Stricker lives by. You know you are getting his best effort anytime he tees it up this year. Stricks has five Top 10s in eight starts this year. That is fantasy gold. Stricker probably has five more tournaments to play this year, so use his starts wisely.
UPDATE: Steve Stricker announced today that he suffered a tear in his right hamstring while skiing during a recent vacation, but still intends to play this week’s World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. <-- That is enough for me to drop him down at least three strokes, probably more. Can't risk it.
Bo Van Pelt: It’s all about consistency for BVP at Firestone. 8 of his 12 rounds have been under par, only two rounds over par and his worst round at Firestone is a 1-over, 71. You should have plenty of starts left on Bo Van Peezy, as well, since he’s been rather lackluster this year. This could kickstart his year and get him ready for the Playoffs.
Keegan Bradley: Defending champions are hard for me to get behind. The stats all point to Keegan being a great pick again but defending champions generally suffer. There are always exceptions to the rule, but I will be passing on Keegan this week.
Luke Donald: Donald has been close to winning this tournament many times, but just can’t get over the hump. In 32 rounds played at Firestone, Donald has played 16 of them under par. That’s a pretty solid percentage, so it’s no wonder he has four Top 10s at this event. Donald is a very solid play this week.
Jason Day: JD rises to the occasion at big events, so you have to have him on your radar. You also have to worry about his sore wrist. The sore wrist factor drops him just outside of my Top 10. Making him a decent play, but also a risky play.
Rickie Fowler: Hear me out here. Fowler has only two rounds over par at Firestone in 12 rounds played. If you take those two rounds out of the equation, Fowler has a scoring average of 68.2 at this course. That would be second behind only Keegan Bradley. I know you can’t take bad rounds out of play but my point is Fowler is so close. Oh so very close.
Lee Westwood: Talk about hit or miss at a tournament. Lee has three Top 10s here, but also has three Bottom 10s. Which Westwood will show up this week? With the way he played at the Open two weeks ago, I would learn towards the Top 10s.
Adam Scott: I know this might be hard to hear, but you should bench Adam Scott this week. I must be crazy right? Adam Scott won this tournament no more than two years ago! Sure he’s won here before, and also finished Top 10 two other times. You can’t ignore the seven other times he’s played here and finished outside of the Top 35 in all seven of those tournaments. It’s certainly possible that Scott plays well this week, but it’s much more likely that you will be glad you benched him.
|Expert||Keeper||Why the Pick?||YTD|
|The 19th Hole||Tiger Woods||Seven wins at Firestone over his career, so it's a familiar setting. Four wins already this year at similarly familiar venues including a fellow WGC event.||Avg Finish: 44th|
|Future of Fantasy||Rory McIlroy||Finally get a course he likes and a course that suits his game well. Will try to put all the haters to bed with a win this week.||Avg Finish: 35th|
|Jake Gaer||Tiger Woods||It's Firestone, and he's Tiger Woods. Don't over think it.||Avg Finish: 31st|
|Expert||Sleeper||Why the Pick?||YTD|
|The 19th Hole||Miguel Angel Jimenez||First start since playing well in brutal conditions at Muirfield (T13). Has a habit of hanging around in big events.||Avg Finish: 60th|
|Future of Fantasy||Paul Casey||14 rounds under par at Firestone in 32 attempts (44%). May not sound great but its 13th best in the field of golfers with at least 12 rounds at Firestone.||Avg Finish: 50th|
|Jake Gaer||Harris English||He's quietly playing very well as of late. Sneaky top 20 at The Open. Tough to find a "sleeper" in this event.||Avg Finish: 50th|
Top 20 for the 2013 WGC Bridgestone Invitational
1. Tiger Woods -12
2. Rory McIlroy -10
3. Matt Kuchar -10
4. Jim Furyk -9
5. Luke Donald -9
6. Bubba Watson -8
7. Justin Rose -8
8. Lee Westwood -8
9. Keegan Bradley -7
10. Bo Van Pelt -7
11. Rickie Fowler -7
12. Jason Day -7
13. Martin Laird -6
14. Jason Dufner -6
15. Sergio Garcia -6
16. Adam Scott -6
17. Henrik Stenson -6
18. Dustin Johnson -6
19. Zach Johnson -6
20. Steve Stricker -6 <---Update: Dropped from 4th to 20th with news of torn hamstring.
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