Defending Champion: Keegan Bradley
Welcome to All-Star week on the PGA Tour!
Actually, The Bridgestone isn’t actually a PGA event. This week’s regularly scheduled Tour stop is the Reno-Tahoe Open – aka “The Biggest Little Tournament in the World” – but no gives a crap about that. It’s the worst thing to happen to Lake Tahoe since it was decided Smokin’ Aces would be set there.
No, the world’s premier players will be strapping on the soft spikes in Akron at everyone’s favorite WGC course, Firestone. Well, not all the world’s best, only 49 of the Top 50. Louis Oosthuizen is skipping the Ohio stop with a – presumably Night at the Roxbury related – neck injury. Otherwise, if you’ve heard of them, they’ll be there.
So who to take?
Tiger Woods – This isn’t a Major so Tiger can actually win. Or provide some quality rounds over the weekend at the very least. A friend/Nemesis told me at the beginning of last year that Tiger can’t win at courses he’s never previously won at. I scoffed. This is Tiger Woods we’re talking about. The most dominant player of all time. He can collect oversized checks on any immaculately groomed 60 hectares of grass. But now I must concedethat he may have been correct. So while I don’t have high hopes for Sir Eldrick at next week’s PGA Championship, site of his worse every Major result, I do like his chances this week at Firestone, where he’s a seven-time champ.
Dustin Johnson – Length isn’t a necessity this week, but it certainly won’t limit any production. Firestone is a birdie maker’s paradise, as long as you can avoid those pesky hazards. DJ’s distance off the tee will leave him beaucoup opportunities for short approaches, all he needs to do is have a great week with his trusty gap wedge to finish with the leaders. Oh, and roll in a couple 10-footers too.
Keegan Bradley – He’s had multiple close calls in 2013, but the defending champ just hasn’t elevated his game quite enough to escape with a victory just yet. That could change this week. Firestone is geared for Bradley’s style. He’ll take aim at every pin, and the conditions are lining up for him to be successful with that strategy.
Bill Haas – Talk about underrated, Bill Haas is having the best year you aren’t hearing about. He won the AT&T National, while piling up another seven Top 10 finishes including in three of his last five events. And like in real life, he’ll be overlooked surrounded by the star power in the “A” Pool, don’t let that cloud your judgment.
Justin Rose – Now that his US Open victory has long been forgotten – blame our crippling lack of cultural memory for that – it’s time for Rose to get back in the winner’s circle, especially coming off a brutal performance at the Open Championship. The Brit’s ended up in the Top 25 in nine of 11 events this year and, in a diminished field, should have no issues propagating that trend.
Steve Stricker – I’m sure a quick Google search would answer this, but I’m a lazy guy: Why did Stricker skip the British Open? I can’t understand it. I know he’s in semi-retirement, but come on, it’s a f*ucking Major. You’re going to play the Shell Houston Open yet refuse to compete for the Claret Jug? Give your head a shake Strick. I’m more outraged because Muirfield was custom made for Stricker’s game, and at age 46, time’s running out for him. And it’s not like he hasn’t been playing well this season. He’s entered just eight tournaments and collected five Top 10s, including a pair his last two events. He finished just one stroke out of the lead here last year, and now that he’s incredibly well rested should make another run in 2013.
Jason Day & Adam Scott – There are a passel of prolific names to choose from the “C” Pool, but why not go for the best? Day’s been fixture on the first page of the leaderboard all season long. Case in point: Five Top 10s. He always seems to perform better in strong fields too: finishing third at The Masters, second at the US Open and third at the WGC Match Play. And Scott, well it’s been a career year for him. On top of the Green Jacket, the Aussie’s ended up outside the Top 20 just three times all season. Impressive stuff. Plus, he won this event two years ago. Don’t let that slip your subconscious, or your regular conscious, commonly referred to as just conscious.
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