The final World Golf Championships event of the 2017-18 PGA Tour season takes place this week in Akron, Ohio, with the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.
Hideki Matsuyama returns as the defending champion, but all eyes will be on Tiger Woods.
Woods narrowly crept inside the top-50 in the Official World Golf Ranking at the Open Championship two weeks back to secure a spot in the field. This is significant for a couple of reasons: 1. It’s the final time Firestone hosts the Bridgestone Invitational; 2. Tiger has won on that course a record eight times in his illustrious career.
With the way he’s played this season, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before Woods breaks through for his first win since 2013… which happened to be right there at Firestone in the Bridgestone Invitational.
A logical spot to end the drought, isn’t it?
The task won’t be easy though, with virtually all the top players in the world teeing it up, including World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a win on Sunday – his third of the season – at the RBC Canadian Open. Johnson also won at Bridgestone in 2016.
So, who should you be keeping an eye on in Akron? We asked three caddies who are on the ground there this week that very question.
To protect their identity, the caddies have submitted their five respective picks anonymously.
Let’s take a look at who they picked and why:
- Dustin Johnson, “He’s coming off a win – his third of the year. He’s the No. 1-ranked player in the world and he won at Firestone two years ago. Add that to the fact that he’s a great driver of the ball and that’s a recipe for success.”
- Francesco Molinari, “He’s the hottest player in the world right now, making his first start since winning the Open Championship. His last three starts consist of a win (Quicken Loans), a T2 (John Deere) and a win (the Open). He’s in complete control of his ball.”
- Rory McIlroy, “Another great driver of the ball. Rory’s coming off a T2 in the Open, which was his best finish in a major since his last major win at the 2014 PGA Championship. He also had a T5 in the 2017 WGC-Bridgestone.”
- Tiger Woods, “A win is around the corner… and this is a place where he’s won eight times before.”
- Xander Shauffele, “The 24-year-old had two wins as a rookie a year ago, including the Tour Championship. He hasn’t won yet this year, but he’s got two runner-up finishes – one in the Players Championship and the other in his last start, the Open Championship. He drives the ball so well and he’s a great ball striker.”
- Tony Finau, “He’s having a terrific season, but he’s still looking for a win. His driving ability is a tremendous asset that will come in handy at Firestone, where he’ll be playing in the Bridgestone Invitational for the first time. I’m thinking Tony could make his first Bridgestone start a memorable one.”
- Dustin Johnson, “It’s foolish to pick against him right now.”
- Luke List, “He’s another Firestone rookie, but he’s enjoying a fine season with five, top-10 finishes. He hasn’t top-10’d since the Wells Fargo in May, but if you look at his body of work from this season, he’s due for a big week. This could be it.”
- Rory McIlroy, “Sure, he’s got four top-10 finishes this season, including the win at Bay Hill, but it still hasn’t been a Rory-like year. He’s dropped to seventh in the Official World Golf Ranking. But… he’s coming off a T2 at the Open Championship. The confidence from his play at Carnoustie, to go along with the excitement surrounding the next two weeks – a WGC and the season’s final major – will have Rory extra motivated.”
- Anirban Lahiri, “He’s my dark horse pick this week. Right now, Lahiri is 102nd in the FedExCup standings and will need to make a move to position himself better for the upcoming playoffs. He missed the cut at the Open, but that came after stringing together six consecutive cuts made, which was his longest streak of the season. He’s playing well. That Open missed cut was just a blip.”
- Tiger Woods, “An eight-time winner at Firestone whose game is coming into form. He’s due for a win.”
- Dustin Johnson, “It’s easy. He’s the best player in the world and he’s coming off a win. So, he’s very confident.”
- Tommy Fleetwood, “The Englishman is playing great golf. Look at his last four starts on the PGA Tour: T7 at the Players; second at the U.S. Open; T12 at the Open Championship; T6 at the RBC Canadian win. He’s due for a win here on U.S. soil.”
- Justin Rose, “This is a great course for Justin, as you have got to drive it straight. He’s got three, top-5 career finishes here. He also had a great weekend at the Open Championship, resulting in a T2, so he’s in great form.”
- Gary Woodland, “His game is coming into form. It hasn’t been quite as good as when he won in Phoenix earlier this year, but his game is getting hot at the proper time of year.”