Teeing Off: The Coral Golf Blog
The WGC Bridgestone Invitational offers the best players in the world the chance to win a prestigious title but also prepare for next week’s final major of the season. While the USPGA is quickly on the horizon, this is still a tournament they would love to get their hands on. The 7,400 yard par 70 offers another demanding test with long hitters having a strong record at Firestone Country Club.
Tiger Woods is the overwhelming favourite in Akron, Ohio, this week and is undoubtedly the man to beat. The world number one has won seven times at the course and the only surprise is that the last victory came in 2009. From 2005, he won on four consecutive starts at Firestone although his best finish in the last three years is a tie for eighth last season.
The 14-time major champion has returned to the top of the rankings this year with a dominant performance on the PGA Tour. Woods has won four times in just ten events this season and all of these victories have come at courses where he has previously triumphed. The Players Championship was somewhat unexpected, at a venue where he has struggled, but victories at Doral, Bay Hill and Torrey Pines sit alongside Firestone as tracks where Woods has enjoyed consistent success. Sitting first in stroke average and the all-round ranking, Woods has to be rated a confident bet to win at 9/2.
Angel Cabrera has always been a mercurial talent but the powerful Argentine has enjoyed his most consistent season on tour. The 43-year-old came so close to picking up his second Green Jacket at Augusta this year when he was edged out in a play-off by Adam Scott. The two-time major winner won plenty of admirers with his performance and sportsmanship at the Masters but has managed to hold his form since April. He finished in the top ten at the Travelers Championship and contended for much of the Open Championship before tying for 11th at Muirfield.
Cabrera can also boast encouraging history at Firestone where he has finished inside the top five three times since 2004. The last two times he has managed a strong performance in Ohio have been after top tens at Augusta National so this bodes well after his display in this year’s first major. Cabrera is playing some of the best golf of his career and this looks like an ideal opportunity to back the big hitter at Coral’s 66/1 top price each way.
Keegan Bradley is the defending champion this week but there is every reason to think he can contend for his second WGC title. The 2011 USPGA winner took an instant liking to Firestone two years ago when only a poor final round saw him drop down to a tie for 15th. But he held his nerve to shoot a closing 64 for the victory 12 months ago. Bradley has shot under par in all but one of his eight rounds at the venue where he holds a superb stroke average of 67.63.
It has been a season of near misses for the talented American who was runner-up at the Byron Nelson Championship and has posted three other top-four finishes. The 27-year-old is currently fourth in total driving on the PGA Tour which is a significant asset around this lengthy track. Bradley put up a stout defence when joint third at the PGA Championship last year so a similarly impressive effort should be expected here. Take Bradley to retain the title at 33/1 each way.
It is also worth adding Zach Johnson as an outside bet after the American’s return to top form in the last month. The 37-year-old endured an indifferent start to the year but looked sharp when third at the Crowne Plaza Colonial two months ago. He nearly defended his title at the John Deere Classic at the start of July but was pipped in a play-off. However he carried this into the Open Championship where he led early on before finishing in a tie for sixth.
It was noticeable that his putting was back on song in his last two outings and the short, accurate hitter can be deadly with the flat stick. The nine-time winner has enjoyed some decent efforts around Firestone over the years with two top tens since 2005. The 2007 Masters champion will be determined to end the season strongly and with his short game back to its best he is an appealing option at 50/1 each way.
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