By Eric Kammeraad
Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio welcomes the 78 Top Ranked Golfers in the World for the chance to win the Gary Player Cup. Firestone is the longest Par 70 course on the PGA Tour this year, and for many years previous. The players will have their hands full, and most likely scorecards full, in trying to put out the blaze of Firestone Country Club.
The biggest story coming into the Tournament is by far the return of Adam Scott after his disaster of a finish two weeks ago in The Open Championship. And not to mention, he is the Defending Champion of the Bridgestone Invitational. It won’t take long to see what he has going on in his head and on the course since Ernie Els took advantage of his final four hole meltdown at Royal Lytham. Adam Scott could shoot lights out coming out of the gate on Thursday, or he could start with those 4 straight bogeys again. And that could be even more disastrous, because this is a No Cut Event. All 78 players will play all 4 rounds this week in Akron. Only time will tell how this will affect Adam Scott.
The discussion of the top favorites has to being with the one and only Eldrick Woods. Tiger has won this Event a total of 7 times, that’s right 7! Only Darren Clarke (2003), Hunter Mahan(2010), and Adam Scott have won the Bridgestone Invitational have won since 1999, when the tournament became a WGC Event. Tiger played well at The Open Championship until he couldn’t get his game going enough on that Sunday. Put him in a place where he is comfortable this week, and I could easily see him managing his game around Firestone once again to lead the field on Sunday Evening.
As for other players that you should keep an eye on this weekend in Akron, there are a few I expect to perform at the top of their games. Let’s start with the two Englishmen. Luke Donald had a terrible Friday at Royal Lytham, but besides that he turned in 3 very good scorecards and finished T-5 and one of a couple handfuls of players Under Par. Lee Westwood has lots of confidence when he plays at Firestone Country Club. He has three Top 10’s in the last 4 years there. Both of these players were big favorites, again, at The Open Championship. That was their expectations as well since neither has a Major Championship on their mantle. Expect both of them to come out aggressive and ready to go low while trying to take out their frustrations on another ‘failed’ attempt to gain their 1st major.
Keep your eyes on the leaderboard for these guys who are on top of their games right now and ready to fight for a WGC Event; Zach Johnson is the hottest player on Tour since April, Rory McIlroy has shot in the 60’s for the past 2 years straight at Firestone, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson because their length off of the tee box should be a great advantage on this long course, and my underdog player of the week to perform has to be Rickie Fowler and his genius weekend play last year at Firestone.
The Bridgestone Invitational has a history of fantastic finishes and phenomenal highlights. These Top 78 Players in the World(minus Webb Simpson) are unquestionably ready to give us viewers a great show. It’s that time to make a pick for my winner. As much as I feel Tiger Woods is finally back towards the top of his game, this just doesn’t feel like his week. So my unanticipated ‘Firestarter’ of the week and 2012 Champion will be Matt Kuchar. He is playing lights out and was one of the few to play last week at the Canadian Open in preparation for the WGC Event starting on Thursday. By the time Sunday comes, I anticipate Matt Kuchar holding up the Gary Player Cup as this year’s Champion.