World Golf Championships Bridgestone invitational Preview and Picks
Dates: Thursday July 31 Sunday August 3, 2008
Venue: Firestone Country Club South Course, Akron , Ohio
Television Coverage: The Golf Channel/CBS
by Matt of Predictem.com
For the first time in two weeks, the PGA is back in the states, stopping in Akron for the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. All the WGC events bring out the strongest fields, with the majority of the top 50 in the world attending, along with tournament winners from around the world from the past year. The select field is shorter than usual at around 80 players and all will see the weekend as there is no cut for this event. Tiger Woods would be looking for a fourth consecutive win here if he were able, so its anyones guess who will rise to the top at Firestone Country Club. Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and all the usual suspects will be competing for the winners share of the $8 million total purse. The Golf Channel carries the early rounds and tune into CBS for the weekend coverage. XM radio will have four days of coverage for the satellite set.
The South Course at Firestone will host the event for the ninth time since the inaugural tournament in 1999. Tiger Woods has been victorious in six of the previous Bridgestones with only Stewart Cink and Darren Clarke able to notch a win otherwise. For the week, the course will play at par 70 and measure 7,400 yards. In 07, the track played as one of the hardest on Tour this side of a Major, with only Tiger finishing under par. The roughs will penalize missed drives again this year, although they have been cut back a bit from last year. The leaderboard on Sunday should look a lot like a Major, with the experienced and accurate players in position for a win, but there is always room for an upstart to break through with a hot week.
Each event, we take a look at the golf sportsbooks and profile the favorites to win. We make a pick to win of our own from a short, middle and long odds group and pick a few matches as well. This weeks odds to win and match-ups come courtesy of the board at Bodog Sportsbook.
10 to 1 to win and 2 to 1 to finish in the top-5 (including ties)
Phil will probably be the favorite in the remaining events for the year as the 2nd ranked player in the world, but his 08 has been less than vintage Mickelson. He has not finished outside the top-25 and does have two wins, but the consistency has been lacking and the Major performances have been average overall. As far as this week goes, Phil has had success in this event with a win at the old NEC in 96 and runner-up finishes in three other starts. Lefty is a top-10 player in birdie and scoring average, on the strength of solid GIR% and 295 yard driving average. The driver could get him in trouble this week if it is crooked as Phil is only 177th in fairways hit. The putter is a bit weaker than in years past, but is still above average and should have Mickelson in contention into the weekend.
16 to 1 and 3 to 1
Garcia will be looking to make up for a disappointing T51 at the British Open where he came in as the favorite. Garcia had been on a good run prior, with T4 and T18 leading into the Open and has played well in the strong field events, gaining a win at the PLAYERS earlier in the year. Like Mickelson, Sergio is long off the tee and sometimes wild, ranking outside the top-100 in fairways hit. Garcia recovers well by hitting 66% of greens in regulation, but leaves a lot of shots on the course with a 180th ranked putter.
16 to 1 and 3 to 1
Harrington is fresh off his second straight British Open win, overcoming a wrist injury and vicious winds to do so. Paddy has had a good 08, especially in the Majors, finishing 5th in the Masters along with the Open win, and has finished in the top-10 in half of his PGA Tour starts. Harrington is among the best on Tour in terms in terms of birdie and scoring average and is an exceptional putter, ranking 19th in per round average. Padraig can fight the driver accuracy at times and that could hurt this week, but he has the length to overpower any course and the putter helps to save those scrambling pars.
18 to 1 and 10 to 3
Furyk has been close in the last few weeks, finishing 3rd, 5th and 14th leading into this event. Jim has the accuracy to play Firestone, ranking inside the top-25 in both fairways and greens hit. The putting average has held Furyk back from winning this year as he ranks 125th in average, but still manages over 3 birdies per 18 holes. It seems that the tee to green game is good enough to win at any time, so a hot putter will certainly find Jim knocking at the door this week. Furyk will have to fight off fatigue, playing for the third straight week, including the British and Canadian Opens.
18 to 1 and 7 to 2
Cink comes in as the 04 champ and has a runner-up in 06 on the Firestone resume as well, making him as likely a choice as any this week. Cink still leads the Tour in top-10 finishes with seven and has reached the number one rank in the All Around stat. Stu hits the 9th most greens on Tour and is top-40 in driving, putting and birdie/scoring average. That mix will keep him on pace with the leaders and the run of good play has just peaked with a win in June at the Travelers.
18 to1 and 4 to 1
Kims strong season continued last week in Canada with another top-10 finish that followed a top-10 at the Open and a win at the AT&T. The young star is well rounded, ranking in the top-30 in total driving, greens hit and putting average, leading to a 2nd rank in the All Around stat. Kim is among the longest players out there, but will need to find the fairways this week to continue his run of hot play that has seen his scoring average drop to 69.7, good for third best. This will be Kims first WGC-Bridgestone, but there should be no fear of the field given the performance in the big events this year.
20 to 1 and 4 to 1
Perry is swinging better than any of late, with three wins in his last six starts and two other T6s in that stretch. Kenny is another with a strong overall game that combines length and accuracy on the way to the Tours best scoring average at 69.41. Perry is second in birdies per round and has carded the most total birdies in 08. Perrys 7th best GIR% will play big this week, especially when you couple that with his 13th ranked total driving. Perry is an above average putter to boot, so another shot at a win is certainly within reach.
80 to 1 and 14 to 1
Sabbatini makes the list here as our longshot pick this week. Rory has not had a year to take notice of, but he does have two runner-ups in this event, including 07. Sabbatini has only two top-10s this year, but they are a second and third and there have been only four missed weekends thus far, so a turnaround is possible. The stat sheet is underwhelming, but Rory is still long enough to play anywhere and continuing to hit 64%+ of greens in regulation will give him chances. Sabbatini has cashed in at a decent rate thus far, notching 3.4 birds on average.
For the Win:
Short: Sergio Garcia 16-1 odds the British was disappointing but will probably be just a speedbump in an otherwise solid year.
Middle of the Road: Kenny Perry 20-1 odds - No one can match the last 6 weeks, and the course fits the game.
Longshot: Rory Sabbatini 80-1 odds A bit of a hunch pick, but the Bridgestone has produced close calls in the past.
Matches (our pick)
(Matches are for entire tournament)
Phil Mickelson (-140) v. Sergio Garcia (EVEN) (Garcia)
We have been making some hay picking against the favorites of late, and we like Garcia here this week. Mickelson is plenty capable, but it just seems that Phil is not firing on all cylinders. He could catch at any time, but Garcia is playing well in his own right. This one will come down to fairways hit and clutch putting.
Padraig Harrington (-120) v. Jim Furyk (-120) (Harrington)
If Harrington can win with a sore wrist, I cant rightly pick against him when hes healthy. Furyk is solid and playing well, but the winning combo has eluded him so far. Harrington winning a second Major in as many years leads one to believe he is at his best against the best.
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