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Handicapping

The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Picks

The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Picks to Win

When: June 30 Ė July 3, 2016
Where: Firestone CC (South) Ė Akron, OH
TV: The Golf Channel/CBS
by: Evergreen of Predictem.com

The news items in the world of golf can be strange at times but recent days have really upped the ante on odd. First, Tiger Woods has speculated his surgically-repaired back is trending in the right direction to allow a return to the PGA but he has no idea when that is and suggested it may not be this season at all. So, right there, the biggest news story that might have been turns out to be nothing. Olympic Golf should at least be a fun thing to banter about but the only meaningful news surrounding that subject is how many players are withdrawing due to Zika virus concerns. That is a sad fact as playing for national pride is about as good as it gets for any athlete and that pursuit is now marred by serious health issues.

The last bit of golf news is the cancellation of next weekís Greenbriar event after the tragic flooding in West Virginia. Please find a news outlet if you have not seen the devastation that occurred throughout that region. People lost their lives, others lost possessions and face displacement or massive recovery challenges. The Old White TPC was literally under feet of water and while the cancellation of a golf tournament is not the big deal this week, there are some circumstances that arise from it. Most meaningful in the golf sense is that there is now just this weekís WGC event and concurrent Barracuda Championship before the British Open. The Greenbriar was to serve as the final Open qualifier for those not already exempt so the decision has been made to transfer that qualifying opportunity to Reno this week. Any player not already in the Open field can win exemption to play at Troon based on his finish at the Barracuda Championship. The PGA will be dark next week as a result and while I look forward to watching the British Open, my thoughts are certainly with the people of the Greenbriar region in what has to be an unimaginably difficult time. I hope all returns to normal in quick order for those affected.

On to business. The World Golf Championship schedule of events provides some of the best tournament action on the schedule and falls only behind the Majors and the Players Championship in terms of prestige. A stacked field from around the globe gets the invites for events like the Bridgestone and we routinely see some fantastic golf as the big dogs go head-to-head. The ďMonsterĒ South Course at Firestone is a great venue for championship golf and the par-70 gets that monster nickname by stretching out to nearly 7,300 yards. The fairways are tough to hit and even when in the short stuff, approaches can be impeded by the trees lining the layout. Fifteen holes averaged over par during 2015 play, including the 660-yard par-5 at the 16th. Tiger Woods has a remarkable eight victories here and that certainly skews the winners profile but add in Adam Scott, Vijay Singh and Rory McIlroy and you can start to see that you need to be both long and straight to win here and having that ability to hit the big-time shot is key as well. Anything can happen on the PGA Tour but this isnít usually the event to see a lesser-known come out of nowhere for a win.

Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the players that are the best bets. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that you can find at Bovada Sportsbook. Here are our picks to win the 2016 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Brooks Koepka (15 to 1 odds to win)
With the big stars like Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy atop the favorites list, Brooks gets the better value simply on name recognition but it should be noted that it is Koepka that it the trending fantasy golf pick so the expectation is that he contends for a win. Part of the Brooks push is that he was the only player to break par in all four rounds last year on the way to a T6. He is a little short on experience but not talent as he has not missed a cut since April, finished T13 at the US Open and enters with two runner-up finishes in the last month. Koepka is long enough to challenge this course and hits enough greens to put up top-20 birdie stats and the 9th best scoring average. He isnít in the top-tier of putters on Tour yet but he is one of the better performers from outside 25 feet so he isnít giving strokes away on the greens by any measure. Brooks will need to find his top gear to beat this field but he is undoubtedly a star on the rise.

Bubba Watson (25 to 1)
Iím starting to pair Watson and Koepka together as they share so many similarities that they stand to succeed in the same events. Watson was 2nd here last year and that is just one of the five top-3 finishes he has in his last ten WGC starts. Bubba hasnít missed a cut yet this season and even though is not playing his best over the last month or so, he hasnít bottomed out so a quick turn-around is more likely than not. He enters the week inside the top-10 in driving distance and greens hit but his balky putter has pushed his birdie average to 28th. The putter hasnít helped him save par either so his scrambling stats are off from his career average as well. Fixing a putting stroke is not easy but he has the familiarity with these greens to perform better this week and there is nothing else to worry about stat-wise so he should do just fine given a modest improvement on the greens. A good week putting should see him right there fighting for a win.

Rickie Fowler (30 to 1)
It has been a bad stretch for Rickie with missed cuts at the Players, Memorial and US Open in the last month but there is little doubt that he can win here based on his Bridgestone record. Since 2011, Fowler has been inside the top-10 on three occasions at Firestone and has five top-10ís in his last nine WGC starts. He is long enough to win here, adds in a solid fairways hit percentage to come in at 18th in total driving and hits the 4th most greens. The putter has let him down however but like Watson, a good amount of comfort at this course should be all that is necessary to right that wrong and put Rickie back in contention. Despite the recent struggles, Fowler is safely in the top-20 in just about every stat you would look at to project a win so he just needs to knock a few rough edges off to get back to the winnerís circle.

Head-to-Head Matches
Picks to win based on predicted score after all four rounds. Check with your favorite online betting site for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.

Jason Day v. Jordan Spieth (pick to win: Spieth)
Spieth is just one of those guys that you need to look at play rather than read his stat sheet as the whole is so much greater than the sum of the statistical parts. Despite hitting fewer greens than Day, it is Spieth that nets more birdies even with Day leading the Tour in strokes gained-putting. That is a bit of an anomaly but pretty standard practice for Spieth as he just finds a way to get it done even though the math doesnít always add up. Day has two Match Play wins to highlight his WGC record but has only two top-20 finishes in six Bridgestone starts. Spieth was 10th last season and should get the win here based on his superior all-around driving game and raw birdie potential.

Jim Furyk v. Matt Kuchar (pick to win: Furyk)
By all appearances, Furyk is fully back to his peak form physically and he should be mentally ready to go after a long injury sabbatical. Furyk is one of the best to ever play at Firestone with ten top-10 finishes in this event since 1999 and there is no reason to think he canít do it again, especially after seeing him at Oakmont. Kuchar has the look of someone who should do well here but has contended just twice in seven starts at Firestone so while his floor is pretty high, his ceiling appears lower than Furykís. Jimmy hasnít logged enough rounds to qualify his stats yet so there is a little faith betting going on but tee-to-green game is important here and Furyk has been masterful in his return in hitting nearly 70% if both fairways and greens. That is going to be a tough combo to beat and you know that Furyk seldom beats himself so he should get the better of this matchup.

Good luck and good golf!

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