This is a strange year for golf. The combination of golf’s inclusion into the Olympics and the Ryder Cup in Hazeltine has concertinaed the summer’s tournaments. For fans it’s largely a good thing as we have top class tournament after top class tournament to enjoy but it’s proving to be a challenge for the world’s best players. Events such as this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational which would normally command a phenomenally strong field have suffered. Only 61 players have made the trip to Ohio for this week’s tournament as some have chosen to play at the Open de France while others will take the week off.
Still, world number one Jason Day is in attendance alongside the likes of Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and defending champion Shane Lowry. There are no cuts at World Golf Championship events but that’s about where to good news ends for the players. The South Course at Firestone Country Club is a fearsome test. At 7,400 yards it is a real monster of a par 70 layout. The course includes a 667 yard par five which is the longest hole you’ll find outside of the majors.
There is no getting away from the distance of Firestone but it is also a real feat of course design. Over the years Bert Wray, Robert Trent Jones and Jack Nicklaus have all overseen work on the course which is one of the fairest tests of golf. There is no horrible stretch but nor is there any respite. To win at Firestone you’ve got to grind. It is also vital to be able to hit the ball a long way to really contend at Firestone. The fairways are fairly generous so it is possible to let rip with the driver.
Jason Day sits at the top of the betting but the Aussie has a fairly disappointing record at Firestone. Of the early favourites with the bookies the man to get on board with is Dustin Johnson. DJ won his first major championship just a couple of weeks ago under incredibly tense circumstances which will be a major boost to his confidence levels. He also has the required power off the tee and the ability to hit a small target out of the rough so back Johnson to win at 8/1 with Ladbrokes.
Another big hitter who could well be worth backing this week is Bubba Watson. There is no doubting the fact that Bubba is a quirky character who is just as able to throw away a good tournament as he is to outshine the rest of the field but the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational should suit him perfectly. Like Johnson he can hit the ball over 330 yards and he is an excellent iron player. If Bubba putts well and keeps his head screwed on he will look over priced at 25/1 with Bet365.
Shane Lowry goes into this week as a 40/1 shot with BetVictor which has to represent value for the defending champion. The Irishman has spoken positively about his inability to convert at the US Open, saying that it proves he has the ability to win a major. He certainly has the ability to win this event.