WGC Bridgestone Invitational (August 3-6)
Course: Firestone CC (Akron, Ohio)
Yardage: 7,400 – Par 70
Overview: Not many people were high on the 2016 Canadian Open Champ coming into the week, but Jhonnattan Vegas defeated the odds and defended his title by beating Charley Hoffman with a birdie on the first playoff hole. Prior to the tournament Vegas had missed five straight cuts and seven out of his last eight. His quick improvement perfectly embodies golf. Vegas hadn’t shot a sub-70 round for eight straight rounds, then he went out and shot four straight in the 60s. Anyone who plays this game can tell you that one little tweak or twitch added or removed from your golf swing can change everything.
The Top 50 golfers in the world are all committed to playing in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational this week at Firestone CC. For some reason a win at the site doesn’t count the same way a major would in the eyes of the World Golf Hall of Fame and other golf pundits. It takes a major winner type of talent to win at the site, though. Over the last 18 years, 15 of the winners have won a major at some point in their career. Yes, Tiger Woods accounted for seven of those winners, but still the only three to not win majors were Shane Lowry, who very well could win a major in his career, Hunter Mahan, who was a fine player in his day, and Craig Parry.
Firestone CC is a par 70 that plays 7,400 yards and puts a heavy premium on ball striking. A Par 70 playing that distance is a loooong course, so players have to be on top of their long irons and hybrids to perform well. There are precisely seven holes that play between 450 and 500 yards, so players who excel at 450-500 yard par 4s and/or 175-200 yard approaches will be at an advantage with a good handful of shots coming from that distance this week. On a 7,400 yard course with only two par 5s, strokes gained: approach will be more important than usual. Unlike last week the winning score will be nowhere near 21 under, and may even be in the single digits, so making loads of birdies wonâ€™t be necessary. Making 20 birdies is one way to win the event, but a solid scrambling game will go a long way. Last year Dustin Johnson won the event with a score of just 6-under par, so even the shorter hitters can hang at this course if they can get up and down with regularity.
2012: Keegan Bradley
2013: Tiger Woods
2014: Rory McIlroy
2015: Shane Lowry
2016: Dustin Johnson
WGC Bridgestone Invitational Daily Fantasy Picks
Brooks Koepka ($11,100 on draftkings) — Koepka is in the middle of a breakout season after winning his first ever major at Erin Hills, then followed it up with a fourth place finish at The Open. Koepka is surprisingly average in strokes gained: approach, but I chalk that up to a slow start this season. What he does do better than the rest of the field is strike it from 175-200 yards. He is the best on Tour in that range, and on this long track he should see a lot of shots from that distance. He’s seemed to figure something out with the putter over the last month. If the putter is still hot he’ll take home another statement win.
Sergio Garcia ($9,200) — It feels like Sergio has fallen into a lull since his
Masters win in April, and comparatively he has. He still hasn’t finished worse than 37th since then, while his price has dropped from the 11K range to the 10K range and now he is only $9,200. That is a bargain for someone who has a real chance to win this tournament. Sergio ranks 26th in scrambling and is in the top half of the field in both SG: Approach and shots from 175-200 yards. He still hasn’t finished in the top 10 in a PGA event since the Masters. He’ll break that streak this week.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello ($7,900) — In Rafa Cabrera-Bello’s case I’m valuing his recent form. Cabrera Bello is a jack of all trades and master of none statistically. His game is as hot as anyone’s right now after winning the Scottish Open, then finishing T-4th in The Open. Those are two tournaments with very good competition. Cabrera-Bello has finished in the Top 10 seven times this season including Euro Tour starts. That is an extremely high rate for someone in the 7K range.
Patrick Reed ($7,800) — Patrick Reed started his year slow but has been steadily improving as the year has gone along. Reed has finished in the Top 25 in eight of his last 11 starts. He’s only played in this event three times, but he’s already had some good success in this event, finishing T-15 in 2015 and T-4 in 2014. Reed may still fancy himself as a Top 5 golfer in the world, (he is not) but he’s very close to getting back to Ryder Cup form.
Charl Schwartzel ($7,200) — I mentioned earlier that 15 of the last 18 winners of this event won a major in their career. In this price range the only other player to have won a major is Dufner and his record is terrible at the site. For Schwartzel that wasn’t the case, his last three finishes at Firestone are T-4, T-31, T-7. You can also get Danny Willett for a thousand less if you’re into major winners who’ve forgotten how to play golf. I’ll stick with Schwartzel, who’s been under the radar all year, yet fairly consistent.
Kyle Stanley ($6,700) — Kyle Stanley has been statistically the best ball-striker all year long. That finally amounted to a win at the Quicken Loans back in June. He proved at the Players Championship that he can lead a field packed with top ranked players and threaten to win. He ranks 8th on Tour in approaches from 175-200 yards, 6th in SG: Approach. Stanley has no problem hitting greens and gaining on the field from tee-to-green, you just have to pray that Stanley will make his four footers this week.