This week marks the final time the WGC-Bridgestone will be hosted at Firestone CC before it moves to Memphis next year with a new sponsor in FedEx. This highly prestigious event and the third WGC of the calendar welcomes the world's top 50 players to battle it out in Akron, Ohio this week. There's plenty of interesting storylines in play this week too. Justin Rose has the opportunity to claim the world No. 1 ranking, while Dustin Johnson will be looking for separation at the top after his excellent win last week in Canada, and can Tiger Woods make it a magical win No. 9 at Firestone?
In 2017, Hideki Matsuyama posted a brilliant total of 16-under par, which was good enough for a five-shot victory over runner-up Zach Johnson.
At 7,400 yards and a par-70, Firestone is a tough challenge. The course is old-fashioned, with very narrow fairways, thick rough and plenty of trees which puts a premium on accuracy and quality ball striking. Approach shots will need to be precise, with the greens sloping from back-to-front, so leaving yourself underneath the hole this week will also be critical. Par-4 performance, ball striking and strokes gained tee to green will all be essential areas to focus on this week.
Tiger Woods has been knocking on the door lately, and there is no better location for Woods than Firestone. The eight-time champion of this event has dominated Firestone in the past and his performance at Carnoustie two weeks ago leads me to believe that he can do it once more this week.
You might not think a tight tree-lined course would be ideal for Woods, but the course has always fit his eye, and Woods has excelled in hitting fairways and scoring at Firestone in the past. Driving accuracy, which has often been Woods' weakness has never been an issue for him at Firestone, and there's no reason to suggest it should be this week on a golf course where Woods has excelled at cutting his driver into the fairway.
While Carnoustie was a missed opportunity for Woods to claim his fifteenth major championship victory, it certainly shows that Woods is very close to winning, and it's his iron play that makes him a serious threat this week at Firestone. When Woods has won this event in the past, it has always been his iron play which has separated him from the rest. In 2013, Woods gained an impressive 12.5 strokes approaching the green which was almost four strokes better than anyone else in this department, and the signs are there that he is capable of doing something similar again this week. Over his previous 24 rounds, Woods sits second for strokes gained approaching the green, and with his irons razor sharp there is every reason to think they may peak this week on a golf course which he almost always tears up.
After back-to-back top-10 finishes in his last two starts, Woods looks primed for another big week at his favorite venue. With his recent form, course history and his iron play in excellent shape, take Tiger Woods to make it magical win number nine at Firestone at 12/1.
Another man with excellent course history at Firestone is Henrik Stenson. Over the last five years, Stenson ranks third for total strokes gained at Firestone, despite not playing the event in 2016. The Swede also has a game made for this tricky test where ball striking will be at a premium. Over his previous 24 rounds, Stenson ranks first for strokes gained approaching the green and second for ball striking.
Stenson has also been excellent with his par-4 performance. Over his previous 24 rounds, Stenson ranks fourth for strokes gained on par 4s. The Swede has four top-10 finishes in his last eight starts and will be glad to get back on a golf course that is tailor-made for his consistent ball striking. Any injury concerns disappeared at the Open Championship too, where Stenson battled to a respectable T35 finish. On a week where approach play will be critical, take the strokes gained approach leader for the season to have a big week in Akron at 33/1.
Adam Scott performed very well in Scotland two weeks ago claiming a top-20 finish, and the Australian can do the same this week in Akron. Scott has an excellent record at this event and is a former champion. Over the last five years, Scott sits ninth in total strokes gained at Firestone, and that's not a surprise considering his imperious long game. Scott is 10th for strokes gained approaching the green and sixth for ball striking over his previous 24 rounds. The Australian's game is very much suited to the test this week, and he has recorded a top-20 finish at Firestone in four of the last five years. At 5/2 and coming off a solid ball-striking display in Scotland, Scott should have enough to land this bet here in Ohio.
72 Tournament Match Bets
He comes into the event in good form, but this is a step up in class for Patrick Cantlay this week as he makes his first appearance in the WGC-Bridgestone. That's not at all to say he won't play well, but on a tough golf course, it may pay to take experience over him this week. The best way to do that is in the form of Zach Johnson. Johnson has played well also lately, and he has the course form to get the better of Cantlay this week. Over the past five years, Johnson has a higher strokes gained total than any other player at Bridgestone, and at a golf course where course form is very relevant, he looks a good bet to get the better of Cantlay this week.
Jon Rahm is an interesting prospect this week. Rahm made his first appearance at the WGC-Bridgestone last year and recorded a T28 finish. That week, Rahm led the field in strokes gained off the tee but suffered a horrible week with his irons and was second last for strokes gained approaching the green. While his iron play hasn't been excellent lately, it's difficult to see him struggling quite as much in that department this week. Unable to find a match bet to my taste, the 8/11 about him to overcome Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera-Bello was more than enough to get me involved. Garcia and Cabrera Bello have both been struggling mightily as of late, with the former missing four of his last six cuts and the latter missing three of his previous four. With both men fighting their game, Rahm, who has recorded three top-5 finishes in his last five events should have more than enough game to get the better of them this week.
2018 WGC-Bridgestone recommended bets
- Outright Winner: Tiger Woods 12/1 (General)
- Each Way: Henrik Stenson 33/1 (7 places, PaddyPower)
- Top 20: Adam Scott 5/2 (Ladbrokes)
- 72 Hole Match Bet: Zach Johnson over Patrick Cantlay 10/11 (Betfred)
- Top Spaniard: Jon Rahm 8/11 (PaddyPower)