WGC Bridgestone Invitational Tips: Rose and Leishman can lay down markers ahead of USPGA


WGC Bridgestone Invitational market overview and betting tips

The WGC Bridgestone Invitational returns to its original slot in the calendar, preceding the PGA Championship after a move involving the Olympics in 2016. This is a great two-week period for golf betting and generally we see the same faces on both leaderboards, so that's a particular trend to keep an eye on at Firestone CC with next week at Quail Hollow in mind. Dustin Johnson - 11.00 - went back-to -back at the US Open and WGC Bridgestone Invitational last season and he sits behind Jordan Spieth - 8.00 - in the betting. The no-cut field comprises of 76 players in all.

Another strong theme to watch specifically for over this next fortnight is one of total drivers and those with high trajectory iron shots - preferably a combination of the two. If we look at recent Firestone leaderboards, there's a strong bias towards this type of player - largely the big hitters. This was a track Tiger Woods dominated in his prime and the likes of Jason Day - 26.00, Adam Scott and Keegan Bradley thrive at Firestone. The same ingredients will be required at Quail. Shane Lowry won the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in 2015 and he also excels in the total driving department (19th '17, 12th '16). Defending champ DJ was second in strokes gained off the tee and 7th in proximity to the hole over the 2016 season but we don't even need the stats if we just watch how it plays out.



Rickie Fowler - 15.00 - and Justin Rose - 29.00 - both also fit the criteria here: Fowler ranks third in total driving and owns a record of four top 10s in seven, including a runner up. Rose has previously talked about how the players had to factor in an extra “5-yard bounce" on approaches - when Firestone is playing firm - to get near the pins. He said at the 2015 WGC Bridgestone renewal that he benefited immensely from an added 10-15 yards he had picked up off the tee, as it left him shorter iron approaches to access very tough pin positions at Firestone. Rose has four top 5s here including in three of the last 5 years, and he's my main man to watch over the next fortnight. He may be worth getting onside now for the PGA Championship in case he starts fast at the Bridgestone and his price crashes.

Another strong pointer towards profiling this week's winner is familiarity with the greens.  Aforementioned former WGC champs Keegan Bradley and Adam Scott - 29.00, and also Jason Day, outlined this in their exploits here but it's Firestone specialist and the man who infiltrates the Bridgestone profile - Jim Furyk - who puts his fabulous Firestone record down mainly to being able to judge the pace and breaks on familiar surfaces.

 

The course - Firestone CC (South course par 70, 7,400 yards)

Scoring at Firestone depends on two things: the length of the ever alternating rough, and the firmness of the track. In 2014 we saw soft conditions here but the course usually plays fast, firm and fiery. In 2015, Jordan Spieth talked about the fact that the fairways were so hard and bouncy that even the more accurate drivers could not find the landing areas easily. This rings true in the stats with only 44.87% of fairways hit for the week. Some of the longest drives of the season are usually clocked up at Firestone. The average drive here in the past has been recorded at 315 yards when playing to its usual fast and firm setup. In 2016 fairways hit were even a lower 44.33%, and greens in regulation stood at only 54.05%

The forecast in 2017 is for rain and thunderstorms and conditions should be a bit softer than the norm. The premium will always be on total driving efficiency to allow higher trajectory approach shots and better angles of attack into some of these pin positions, often guarded by penal bunkers. Rough will be around three inches this year and missed greens on the short side will be a problem. Overly errant drives often go unpunished on fairways at Firestone that run parallel, with just a sparse tree line separating them for the most part, and this is always key to remember. Large surfaces (averaging nearly 7,600 square feet) are aiming for a slower 12.5' on the stimp in 2017.


WGC Bridgestone Invitational Tips

Justin Rose - 29.00 - is my main man for the next two weeks but I'm going to stick with Marc Leishman - 36.00 - after his top 6 at The Open, which followed a break due to a new family arrival. Life is good at the moment for Marc and he is vocal about his home life having a big time positive effect on the course. His recent progressive form line of 13 - 34 -15 - 25 - 17 - 5 - 6 strongly backs this up. Now that he has shaken the rust off at Birkdale, I fancy he may strike at a place where he has contended before. Leish was third in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in 2014 and was right there again in 2015 before a bad final round. The faster and firmer around the greens the better for the Aussie who ranks fourth in scoring average.

Kevin Chappell - 67.00 - has the game for Firestone. He finished third on debut last season, and he ranked high in all tee to green departments, sitting ninth overall in SG: TTG last week in Canada. Perhaps more Interestingly though, he topped the charts in putts per GIR at Glen Abbey. Chappell is a ball striking machine who lies 27th in total driving. He finished T8 in Canada but had a strong chance to win pretty much all of Sunday. I'm sure he will prove to be a different beast now he finally has his maiden win under his belt and the "monkey off his back" as he says. Another to get onside over the next fortnight perhaps.

 

WGC Bridgestone Invitational sleeper Tips

JB Holmes - 126.0 - owns consistently average form at Firestone CC, hence his seemingly inflated price, but he did miss a few trips here around the time he was suffering with health problems. Holmes is simmering right now with a 12th in the US Open, followed by a top 10 in Greenbrier, and he sandwiched in a T14 in Canada last week, firing a five-under back nine on Sunday. Holmes was seveth in Strokes gained off the tee, T27 in greens in reg and recorded four eagles at Glen abbey. He'll have more room this week and will be firing into much bigger greens. The American demonstrated his liking for fast and firm greens at Sawgrass where he couldn't miss a putt for three rounds before high winds stopped him on day four, but expected softer conditions could help the big man's case here.