Power Rankings: WGC-Bridgestone Invitationaltext sizeJuly 29, 2013
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM fantasy columnist
For a solid decade, you couldn't carry a conversation about the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational without including Tiger Woods. Firestone Country Club's South Course is golf's version of "The House that Ruth Built" for the 78-time PGA TOUR winner.
Since the WGC label was affixed in 1999, replacing the popular World Series of Golf that dated back to the official beginning of this tournament in 1976, Woods has won seven of the 13 editions held at Firestone (Sahalee Country Club hosted in 2002; Woods finished fourth). He's earned more at Firestone ($9.36 million) than on any other course in his career.
The most commonly supported angle to explain Woods' success anywhere is his propensity to beat up on the par 5s. However, par-70 Firestone boasts only two of them, and, at 667 yards, the signature 16th is the longest hole played in any non-major. In 2012, it was one of only five par 5s all season that averaged over par at +0.036.
Firestone can stretch to 7,400 yards, making it the longest par 70 on the PGA TOUR. Primarily dry conditions last year allowed for a tournament-record average driving distance of 313.8 yards. In fact, since data was first maintained in 2001, of all courses, only Montreux Golf and Country Club's average of 314.7 yards in 2011 is greater. Montreux hosts this week's additional event, the Reno-Tahoe Open, but it has the contributing factor of altitude at about one mile above sea level.
While the field at Firestone was crushing it off the tee, it's hardly a surprise that accuracy checked in at a paltry 49.18 percent. That's the lowest in its recorded history (dating back to 1992) and fourth-lowest of all courses played in 2012.
In terms of scoring, Firestone averaged 70.695, its highest in three years. The field hit 60.77 percent of the greens in regulation (15th-lowest) and got up and down for par 56.78 percent of the time (21st-lowest). It surrendered a par-breakers percentage of just 17.01, making it the 11th-most difficult track on which to pick up strokes.
Seasonably cool conditions will extend throughout the week. Cloud cover could keep temperatures in the mid-70s. Mild threats for rain and storms exist on Thursday and early on the weekend. Moderate winds could freshen as the energy encroaches.
NOTE: For similar characteristics among recent winners at Firestone, please look for "Stats Suggest" in The Stats Report on Wednesday.
Power Rankings: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Rank Player Comment Tiger WOODS Seven victories (1999-2001, 2005-2007, 2009). Actual scoring average in 48 rounds at Firestone is 68.396. Four wins this season. First start since a T6 at Muirfield. Leads TOUR in adjusted scoring and the all-around ranking. Adam SCOTT Shared third place at Muirfield for his first top 10 since winning the Masters. Went wire-to-wire at Firestone in 2011, one of three top 10s here. Sits 13th in total driving, T20 in greens in regulation and third in adjusted scoring. Henrik STENSON Progressively improving results in his last four starts, culminating with a T3 at the Scottish Open and solo second at Muirfield. Leads the PGA TOUR in fairways hit, ranks second in greens in regulation and sits 10th in adjusted scoring. Bill HAAS Amid missed cuts in the last two majors, sprinkled in a win at the AT&T National and two more top 10s. Co-leads the TOUR with eight top 10s this season. Ranks ninth in greens hit, 23rd in adjusted scoring and fourth in par-4 scoring. Lee WESTWOOD Competing for the first time since a T3 at The Open Championship, his eighth top 10 worldwide this year. In 13 appearances at Firestone, he's logged four top 10s, three of which came in his last five starts. Co-runner-up in 2008. Matt KUCHAR Up-and-down week in Canada resulted in a T2, his fourth top-two finish of the season. Seven top 10s. Leads the TOUR with 21 consecutive cuts made. Top 10s in two of his last three trips to Firestone. Sixth in adjusted scoring. Justin ROSE Back in action after a missed cut at The Open, an event at which he hasn't posted a top 10 since his debut in 1998. Two top fives at Firestone, including a T5 last year. Second on TOUR in adjusted scoring and the all-around. Keegan BRADLEY Came from four strokes back in the final round to win by one last year. Tied for 15th at The Open Championship two weeks ago. Six top 10s and another four top 25s this season. Fourth in total driving and 16th in adjusted scoring. Jason DAY Tenth in FedExCup points, highest among non-winners in 2013. Five top 10s, including a trio of top-three finishes. Long off the tee (T18 in distance), sits 21st in strokes-gained putting and 13th in adjusted scoring. Placed T4 here in 2011. Brandt SNEDEKER Comes off a three-stroke victory in Canada, his co-leading eighth top 10 of the season. Led the field at Glen Abbey in par-4 scoring. Much-improved accuracy splits over previous years -- 53rd in fairways hit, 23rd in greens in regulation. Zach JOHNSON Dismissed disappointment of a playoff loss at the John Deere Classic, instead parlaying the positive into the 18-hole lead at Muirfield where he'd finish T6. Two top 10s and another four top 25s in nine consecutive starts at Firestone. Steve STRICKER Co-runner-up at Firestone last year. No worse than a solo 14th in the last four editions. Off since a T10 at the John Deere Classic. Two seconds among five top 10s on the season. Would lead the TOUR in GIR if eligible for rankings. Phil MICKELSON Despite four top 10s, Firestone hasn't been his cup of tea over the years, but neither was The Open Championship. It was merely the latest of a run of great play; four top-three finishes in his last six starts. Leads the TOUR in par breakers. Webb SIMPSON First appearance at Firestone. Missed last year's edition due to the birth of his second child. Four top 10s this season, most recently a T5 at the Travelers Championship. Currently 30th in greens hit and 17th in adjusted scoring. Hideki MATSUYAMA First appearance in a World Golf Championship. His form off the Japan Golf Tour has transcended globally. Posted a T6 at Muirfield and a T16 at Glen Abbey where he ranked 17th in strokes gained-putting and sixth in scrambling. Dustin JOHNSON Untimely triple bogey at Glen Abbey prevented a chance at victory. Settled for a share of second. Ranks 68th in greens hit, but 11th in par breakers and 21st in adjusted scoring. Best finish in four starts at Firestone: solo 15th in 2010. Billy HORSCHEL Making his debut in a World Golf Championship. Should thrive on a long, difficult track in a tournament where getting aggressive pays dividends. Currently 12th in total driving, 26th in GIR and 25th in strokes gained-putting. Charl SCHWARTZEL A T24 at Firestone last year was his best finish in four appearances. He closed with a field-low 63, five strokes lower than in his previous 15 rounds here. Ranks sixth in par breakers and fourth in adjusted scoring average. Bubba WATSON Three top 25s at Firestone but no better than last year's T19. Under par in only five of 12 rounds. Tied for 21st at the RBC Canadian Open but didn't break par on the weekend. Ranks third in GIR and eighth in par breakers. Rory McILROY Nothing better than a limited-field, no-cutter to search for some rhythm after consecutive missed cuts. Firestone should offer a soft landing as he's posted top 10s in the last three editions and scored under par in 11 of his last 12 rounds.