For the final time at Firestone Country Club’s South Course!
Tiger Woods looks to open a new chapter in history while closing another.
Adam Hadwin and Justin Rose have both WD Wednesday.
All remaining players in the field are evaluated below.
World Golf Championship – Bridgestone Invitational
Firestone Country Club (South Course)
Firestone South Course Cheat Sheet
|Yards (per official scorecard):||7,400|
|Greens:||Pencross Bentgrass/Poa; 7,600 square feet|
|Stimpmeter:||12.5′ and up|
|Rough:||Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass and fescue up to four inches.|
|Architects:||Bert Way (1929); Robert Trent Jones (1960)|
|Purse:||$10 million; $1.7million, 550 FEC points (winner).|
|Defending Champion:||Hideki Matsuyama (-16) won by five shots.|
|Fact of the Week:||The only player to win in his first WGC start was Russell Knox at the WGC-HSBC (2015).|
- 73 players, 72 holes, no cut.
- Last time for this event at Firestone as it moves to TPC Southwind next year as part of the new calendar.
- Tiger Woods has won this event eight times.
**First-time winner AND rookie winner
|Safeway Open||Brendan Steele|
|CIMB Classic||Pat Perez|
|WGC-HSBC Champions||Justin Rose|
|Sanderson Farms||Ryan Armour*|
|Shriners Hospitals for Children||Patrick Cantlay*|
|OHL Mayakoba||Patton Kizzire*|
|The RSM Classic||Austin Cook**|
|Sentry TOC||Dustin Johnson|
|Sony Open||Patton Kizzire (2)|
|CB Challenge||Jon Rahm|
|Farmers Insurance Open||Jason Day|
|AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am||Ted Potter, Jr.|
|Genesis Open||Bubba Watson|
|Honda Classic||Justin Thomas|
|WGC-Mexico Championship||Phil Mickelson|
|Valspar Championship||Paul Casey|
|Arnold Palmer Invitational||Rory McIlroy|
|WGC-Match Play||Bubba Watson (2)|
|Corales Puntacana Resorts||Brice Garnett*|
|Houston Open||Ian Poulter|
|RBC Heritage||Satoshi Kodaira*|
|Valero Texas Open||Andrew Landry*|
|Zurich Classic of New Orleans||Billy Horschel & Scott Piercy|
|Wells Fargo Championship||Jason Day (2)|
|THE PLAYERS Championship||Webb Simpson|
|AT&T Byron Nelson||Aaron Wise**|
|Fort Worth Invitational||Justin Rose (2)|
|FESJC||Dustin Johnson (2)|
|U.S. Open||Brooks Koepka|
|Travelers Championship||Bubba Watson (3)|
|Quicken Loans National||Francesco Molinari|
|A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier||Kevin Na|
|John Deere Classic||Michael Kim*|
|The Open Championship||Francesco Molinari (2)|
|RBC Canadian Open||Dustin Johnson (3)|
The Confidence Factor is the weekly column I write for PGATOUR.COM and contains plenty of angles on the track and those who have aced this exam.
You need course form? Read the above.
You need keys to victory? Read the above.
You need course preview? Read the above.
You need a history lesson? Read the above.
|2017||Hideki Matsuyama||-16 (264)||5|
|2016||Dustin Johnson||-6 (274)||1|
|2015||Shane Lowry||-11 (269)||2|
|2014||Rory McIlroy||-15 (265)||2|
|2013||Tiger Woods||-15 (265)||7|
|2012||Keegan Bradley||-13 (267)||1|
|2011||Adam Scott||-17 (263)||4|
|2010||Hunter Mahan||-12 (268)||2|
|2009||Tiger Woods||-12 (268)||4|
|2008||Vijay Singh||-10 (270)||1|
Facts and Figures:
|Tournament Record:||259; Tiger Woods (2000).|
|Course Record:||61; last set by Matsuyama Round 4 last year.|
|Defending Champion(s):||Woods; last from 2005-2007.|
|Multiple Winners:||Jim Furyk (2006-07), Vegas|
|First TOUR Win (event):||Lowry|
|First TOUR Win (WGC):||Knox|
|First Win in First Appearance:||Knox|
|Low Round Last Year:||61; Matsuyama|
|Rookies of Note Last Year:||Xander Schauffele, T13.|
|Odd Facts:||Only Dustin Johnson has won all four WGC events.|
Not much has changed around here over the years so experience won’t hurt this week. They’ve been teeing it up here in every year but one since 1999. This is one of the toughest courses to find fairways and greens so it’s hardly a surprise the list above is littered with premium ball-strikers.
It’s another week on Bent/Poa as well (and will be next week at Bellerive) as the cool-weather courses get their time in the sun. The massive greens suggest a putting contest but some less-than-stellar putters have won this event convincingly. The big-boy Par-3 holes aren’t testing the putter. Neither is the Par-5 No. 16 that racks out to over 660 yards.
Dustin Johnson only made 16 bogeys in his win in 2016 while Matsuyama had 23 three circles last year. He also hit five more GIR than the second-best player and led the field in that stat. With wet weather in the forecast, 7,400 yards will extend and fairways will widen. There’s really one exception the rule above when looking at the winners so I’d expect another big name this week. The best players usually play the best on the biggest and baddest tracks.
In order of preference for this week and this tournament; LTO= LAST TIME OUT; LW= Last week; LY= Last year this event. I’m tired of typing all that out!
No. 50 to No. 1 OWGR
Some will wonder “why did you do it THAT way???”
No. 50 – Tiger Woods
That’s why. He’s won eight times and knows this track like the back of his hand. All of you whom patiently waited for this moment, well it’s happening. He shouldn’t have slow greens to complain about and he should know exactly where to leave it tee-to-green. Anything outside the top 10 this week after the way he hit it at Carnoustie would be a major disappointment.
No. 49 – Charl Schwartzel
I bet everyone saw his four-putt from six feet over the weekend. Oh, you didn’t? It’s just one hole and he cashed T9 so it didn’t push him over the edge. His last seven worldwide consists of three top-10 checks and four train wrecks. He’s T24 or better in five of the last six here with T4 and T7 the best of the bunch. Cheeky outsider and DFS support staff.
No. 48 – Kevin Chappell
The Sean Foley magic is working as Chappell tied his best finish of the season with T6 at Carnoustie. He’s never going to win a putting contest but that won’t stop him from mashing tee-to-green and that won’t hurt this week. Of his eight rounds here, six are par or better so he’s been a quick study (T3 ’16 and T13 ’17).
No. 47 – Cameron Smith
The Australian must not be a winter player as his last big finish was in early April at the Masters (T5). He went quiet at this time last year and didn’t break out until T7 at Wyndham. It’s his first time at the event so I’ll give him a year to figure it out.
No. 46 – Ross Fisher
The big-hitting Englishman looks to be a perfect fit on this monster of a track but his record shows only three of 16 rounds in the red. His best finish in this no-cut event is 43rd and he has one top 25 since the end of January. Pass.
No. 45 – Luke List
Every year a fresh face makes an impact on the leaderboard in Akron. He sits fifth in both SG: off the tee and tee to green while also checking in 14th SG: around the green. I don’t have to remind you how far he hits it.
No. 44 – Gary Woodland
The good news is he hasn’t had the weekend off in his last five starts worldwide but he also hasn’t cashed anything better than T22. This will be his fifth start at the South Course and he’s in the top 35 in both SG: off the tee (7th) and tee to green (34). He should have most of it figured out by now. Nice deep play.
No. 43 – Haotong Li
He’ll benefit from not having to worry about making the cut as he learns another new course. The upside for the Chinese lad was on full display when he won in Dubai in January. He’s only MC three times since that big win but he’s going to behind the course horses this week.
No. 42 – Kevin Na
He broke thru for the first time since 2011 at The Greenbrier and picked up his fourth top-10 check in his last seven starts. His sharp short game can save him in places here but this isn’t the style of track that suggests a big finish.
No. 41 – Daniel Berger
He missed the JDC to get ready for Shinnecock Hills and it paid off handsomely with a final-round pairing with Tony Finau. His eventual finish of T6 is his only top 10 of the year. There’s no question in the talent but the uneven results before and after the U.S. Open put me off.
No. 40 – Byeong-Hun An
Speaking of running hot-and-cold the Korean was in the mix the last time he was in Ohio at Memorial as he lost a playoff. Last week on Bent/Poa in Canada he was 20-under and shared second. I wish I could tell you to play the hot hand here but I’m not confident. His last three top-10 follow-ups have been MC, T63 and MC. His best follow-on was T23 at TPC Scottsdale after T6 in Dubai! Of eight rounds he has just one in the 60’s here but his splits look a perfect fit. I think it helps he flies under the radar this week and would sneak him in just in case he breaks the trend. He hit it GREAT last week.
No. 39 – Matthew Fitzpatrick
I don’t think at top 25 is out of the question but this might be too much tee-to-green for a big finish. He’ll hit most of the fairways but he’ll need an impressive long-iron/hybrid game to get into the mix. It would be different on a fast-and firm track.
No. 38 – Pat Perez
The solid veteran has played his best golf recently at two of the toughest tests, Shinnecock Hills and Carnoustie. He sits in the top 40 in both fairways and greens so if he’s dialed in, he’ll move on up. His GAS tank sometimes can empty quickly so he’s a luxury player for me this week.
No. 37 – Satoshi Kodaira
His best result since winning at Harbour Town is T20 in the nine events (six MC) that have followed. He’s 188th in GIR and 205th SG: around the green. Bad combo.
No. 36 – Kyle Stanley
On paper he looks to be the perfect fit here. Must resist. Field too deep. Just say no.
No. 35 – Branden Grace
His first MC since the FEC Playoffs last year happened at Carnoustie so form is not the concern. He was T10 in difficult conditions in 2016 and is solid across the board. I’d expect a bounce-back result this week and a finish lower than his OWGR.
No. 34 – Charley Hoffman
His last five worldwide have gone for T29 or better so he’s an excellent supporting cast member again this week. It doesn’t hurt that he cashed solo third last year in his fifth try. He’s aging nicely and half of his 20 rounds here are in the red, including the last four.
No. 33 – Louis Oosthuizen
I’m taking bribes from any and all gamers this week and any week on the little South African. I haven’t been able to nail him down in the last five years so you tell me what you would like me to do. Gun to my head I leave him out so there you go. No, wait, I like him. Put him in. No, wait, ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH.
No. 32 – Ian Poulter
Yep, sign him up. He got his MC out of the way at Carnoustie and bounced back with T12 last week. He played this event every year from 2005 until 2015 and should be excited to be back in the thick of it.
No. 31 – Kiradech Aphibarnrat
Big boy is 20-over par here in two tries. I’m not sure the confidence is going to be bubbling over on the first tee. He’s coming off a four-week stretch of T48, MC, T42 and T75 but three of those were on links. Big ask to turn it around on this track. Pass.
No. 30 – Brian Harman
His best results this season have been on tracks that require the ball to be worked. This week’s grip-and-rip doesn’t match up for me even though his stat pack might suggest otherwise. He’s 19-over in two tries with one round in the 60’s.
No. 29 – Rafael Cabrera Bello
The Spaniard has given us nothing to think about since T8-4 run into the U.S. Open. He backed up his T36 from Shinnecock with MC, MC, MC and 74th to end the streak at Carnoustie. He’s in the top 30 in both fairways and greens and is 20th SG: tee to green. I’m not a guy who likes to break a guy out of a rut but I could see why you would take a chance.
No. 28 – Tony Finau
I would suggest he’ll be this year’s favorite as the first-timer who will collect the biggest check. Fairways are difficult to hit here but Finau doesn’t hit many anyhow and is used to playing from less-than-perfect lies. He’s still 31st in SG: approach the green and is 12th in scoring average. Top-10 finishes in all three majors suggests a difficult course or big field doesn’t put him off.
No. 27 – Matt Kuchar
I can’t believe I’m typing this but he’s MC in three of his last four starts worldwide. The last time he missed more than four cuts in calendar year was 2009 yet he’s MC in four of his last seven starts so his form is less than optimum. He’s teed it up in this event the last eight years and only has one payday worse than T25 and was T3 in 2016 in difficult conditions.
No. 26 – Patrick Cantlay
I’m done being surprised but I did raise an eyebrow when he just missed out on the top 10 at Carnoustie (T12). Similar to Carnoustie, the South Course relies on strong tee-to-green play and that’s Cantlay’s calling card. He’ll battle Finau for top debutant.
No. 25 – Kevin Kisner
He left a few at the altar last week in Canada as he couldn’t carry on his momentum after Carnoustie. I’m passing on him again this week as he’ll have one eye on his white whale next week at the PGA Championship. The contrarian will point out he closed here with 66 last year, his best loop in 12 tries.
No. 24 – Tyrrell Hatton
The Englishman has been a tough nut for me to crack. I get that he’s a very good putter and has a temper that runs a bit hot. He’s struggled on every U.S. track this year except Shinnecock Hills so that’s hardly helping to break any ties. The South Course isn’t going to roll firm and fast like Shinnecock either.
No. 23 – Bryson DeChambeau
Golfers are human beings regardless of their robotic preparation and execution. We’ve seen plenty of raw emotion from DeChambeau from the range at Carnoustie to the final few holes at the Porsche European Open. He’s been under the microscope since he’s arrived on the scene but the white lights are more intense this week. There are too many moving parts for me but, like everyone else, I’ll be monitoring the situation.
No. 22 – Sergio Garcia
No. 21 – Phil Mickelson
Nope. His last top 10 here was 2008 and has only two rounds in the red the last three years. Like his buddy above, two extra rounds are probably annoying him this week…
No. 20 – Webb Simpson
On the most difficult courses this season he’s posted his best results. What am I missing here? His only dud was Colonial and that was his return event after winning THE PLAYERS. His stroke average is 69.75 at Firestone but hasn’t played since 2015.
No. 19 Marc Leishman
Since his solo third in 2014 he’s posted one round in the red in the next 12. His last big finish was on a wide-open track at Trinity Forest. This is quite the opposite.
No. 18 Xander Schauffele
Final group in a major his last time out? Baby crying in his backswing? No problem, T2. Impossible conditions at Shinnecock Hills? No problem, T6. Rookie has never won The TOUR Championship at East Lake? No problem, WIN. Not many first timers do well at Firestone? No problem, four rounds at par or better and the final three in the red. Dismiss at your own peril.
No. 17 Henrik Stenson
He’s putting the theory of “Beware the Injured Golfer” to graduate-level use. He admitted this week that his elbow is not healing as quickly as he would like and with that admission, I’m gone.
No. 16 Hideki Matsuyama
Speaking of injuries, I’m not sure Matsuyama has completely recovered from a wrist deal from earlier in the year. After T16 at Shinnecock that filled gamers with hope, he took three weeks off to prepare for The Open. His prep at Gullane was MC and he followed that with another at Carnoustie. What a difference a year makes. The contrarian will remind me that he defended his title at WMPO last year. I’ll remind the contrarian that was his seventh top-two finish in four months so he was boiling hot.
No. 15 – Paul Casey
Every format. Stroke average here is 69.92 and his win at Innisbrook was on a less-than-easy track.
No. 14 – Bubba Watson
His three best results have been the last three years so it suggests he’s figuring out here. He looked perturbed last week in Canada on a course he should have destroyed so that makes me itch. Conditions will be a tick more difficult this week so I’m not rushing him to the front.
No. 13 – Alex Noren
The Swede has been in stunning form this season but there are two results that stick out: MC at Wells Fargo and Augusta. Both of those tracks are all-you-can eat from tee box to flag but so was Torrey Pines South and he lost in a playoff there. His putter can make-or-break his week.
No. 12 – Patrick Reed
He gains plenty of strokes tee to green because he’s not hitting tons of fairways and greens. His super short game can push him along but he’s not going to contend if he can’t find fairways. He’s 194th in driving accuracy. Caution.
No. 11 – Tommy Fleetwood
Like some of his buddies from across the pond and the other newcomers to this event, he’ll be behind on the green complexes this week. It’s getting time to split hairs as we approach the top 10 and this is one of them. His ability to flush it isn’t in question but putting lightning greens may be. Cashed T28 (70-68-70-71) in his first trip last year so he’s not coming in completely blind. He’ll be one of my nominees for OAD.
No. 10 – Jason Day
Just like his current form he’s a bit hit-or-miss in Akron. He threw away a late lead in 2016 on the final four holes and settled for T3, his best finish in eight tries. Pro gamers will remind me that his adopted home state of Ohio hasn’t treated him well. He leads the TOUR in SG: putting and SG: around the green plus is third SG: total. His short game can cover up plenty of cracks in the ball-striking department but I’m not sure that’s the formula this week.
No. 9 – Rickie Fowler
With five top-10 finishes from eight starts, he’ll be in every lineup this week and rightfully so. Without a win in 16 starts worldwide this season and only four top-10’s fading him won’t be the worst plan of attack. Is it the new girlfriend? Is this the opposite of “Nappy Factor”? Gamers just want him to factor and his record here should have him dialed in this week.
No. 8 – Jordan Spieth
Playing in the final group at Carnoustie came out of nowhere as he entered The Open with nothing better than T21 after solo third at the Masters. He’s still not making any putts but his ball-striking has been encouraging. It’s weird to see him this late in the season without a victory and lingering at No. 42 in FEC standings. He’s T10, T3 and T13 in his last three here with half of those rounds 68 or better.
No. 7 – Rory McIlroy
He’s my favorite this week, sorry DJ! McIlroy gets the lean because this is a course he’s torched over the years. His scoring average of 68.82 trails only Keegan Bradley and Tiger Woods for the best in event history. He’s 22-under in his last two appearances and has five top-10 paydays from seven tries. The wetter and longer this track plays will play directly into his skill set.
No. 6 – Francesco Molinari
The hottest player on the planet goes on the FADE for me this week. What’s the motivation for him to get out of bed this week? He’s become the first Italian to win on TOUR since the 1940’s. He’s become the first Italian EVER to win a major. I hope he’s had a gallon or two of vino rosso and a bit of celebration. Remember, he almost won the PGA Championship last year (T2) so I’m going to assume this event will be the preparation for next week.
No. 5 – Jon Rahm
Speaking of guys who enjoy using a driver as a weapon, the big-hitting Spaniard fits in that category. He was eight-under on debut last year except for 77 in the second round that all but killed his chances. His fearlessness can also cause a bit of bother as we saw at both Shinnecock Hills and Carnoustie. I think he bounces back this week as this course is right in front of him and he knows he has the ammo to overpower it without over-thinking it.
No. 4 – Brooks Koepka
In eight tries he’s posted six in the red and seven at par or better. The two-time U.S. Open champ has no problem getting it off the tee or handling big Par-70 layouts. His uneven form is to be expected after defending winning his second major in as many years. His course form pushes him over the line.
No. 3 – Justin Thomas
With his defense of the PGA Championship next week I’ll understand if he’s not clicking on all cylinders as he hasn’t played since Carnoustie (MC). I can only believe that defending the first major is just as difficult as winning one. He’s second in the FEC points so his focus doesn’t have to be on this week. Cashed T33 in 2016 and T28 last year.
No. 2 – Justin Rose
Every game, lineup, format, side bet and all you can get of each. His streak of top-10 finishes worldwide is five and counting after his win at Colonial. He should be more than familiar with the scene as this will be his 14th time at Firestone. He’s second in scoring and SG: total.
No. 1 – Dustin Johnson
Besides his 2016 victory, this is one of the few tracks (think TPC Sawgrass) that Johnson doesn’t annually play well. He has a round of 73 or worse in every event the last five years. Digging a hole that deep is difficult to climb out of on a track that doesn’t give up a ton of birdies. That being said, he eviscerated Glen Abbey last week without making anything on the greens. He’s No. 1 in too many categories to list and he’s posted top 10’s in four of his last five on TOUR. He’s 1A with McIlroy for me.
Outside the top 50
No. 52 – Si Woo Kim
He’s never recovered from losing a playoff to Kodaira on Hilton Head in April. Nothing in his last 10 have landed inside the top 25.
No. 53 – Russell Knox
His learning curve was navigated quickly at Firestone. His first appearance in 2016 saw him limp home in 16-over with his best round of bunch checking in at 72. His return last year was the opposite end of the spectrum as he posted seven-under with three of four rounds in the red and his worst being 71. He checks in 25th in fairways and eighth in GIR and doesn’t kill it off the tee. Very “Furyk-ian” of him!
No. 56 – Thorbjorn Olesen
MOVE HIM UP. In his last six he’s rattled off a win, T2, T6 and T12 with a pair of MC thrown in. In only his second appearance last year it took him two rounds to knock the rust off (73-70) before storming home 67-65 for T10.
No. 58 – Brendan Steele
He’s been icicles lately but he’s only played five times since the Masters. In two starts separated by six seasons he’s never collected better than T24. Of his eight rounds five are in red figures reinforcing his tee-to-green skill set can work here.
No. 61 – Emiliano Grillo
If you read The Confidence Factor his name was prevalent in the key stat categories this week. His only two weekends off this year were at Shinnecock Hills and Carnoustie so he’s been ticking along. After posting 67 in his first loop he’s rattled off seven straight over-par rounds at Firestone. Not exactly a soft landing after playing Carnoustie LTO.
No. 72 – Alexander Bjork
First time on U.S. soil suggests too large of a learning curve to absorb.
No 73 – Adam Scott
He stuck Fanny on the bag for T17 at Carnoustie so that would have been the week to jump on for me. He plays here annually and has T14 or better in six of his last eight so putting can’t be that important at Firestone, right?
No. 77 – Paul Dunne
Not enough tests on non-resort courses in the States for me to trust him this week.
No. 79 – Andrew Landry
He won at a difficult AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio in April and contended on a difficult Oakmont way back when. That’s the good news. Jumping in for four rounds at Firestone after 80-77 at Carnoustie sounds like fun. Not really! The guaranteed paycheck and four rounds will soften the blow.
No. 81 – Patton Kizzire
He twice over four events to close the 2017 portion of the schedule and open 2018 edition. After winning at Sony in the second week of January he’s posted one 25 in 16 events (T12, WGC-Mexico Championships). Maybe he’s just a WGC player!
No. 82 – Aaron Wise
This is my “makes no sense so it will make sense” long shot. He’s too young to know any better and has already won this season. He’s also MC in five events running. His splits are fantastic and not having a cut to worry about just might free him up again.
No. 85 – Jhonattan Vegas
Last week was going to be the week he snapped back into form, not this one.
No. 87 – Shubankar Sharma
It was in Mexico City where gamers were introduced to him formally as he was the 54-hole leader by two. There’s no altitude this week but the field will be just as deep and demanding, just like the greens.
No. 95 – Ted Potter, Jr.
He’ll play from the sprinkler line but he struggles to find GIR. He’s also 183rd in driving distance so I’m not sure his game matches the track this week. Enjoy the four rounds and the check.
No. 96 – Austin Cook
It’s a total free roll this week for Cook but one that could help stick him deeper inside the FEC Playoffs top 30. He’s currently No. 27 and a top-15 finish or so will push him higher up the ladder. His first Open Championship saw him cash T28 LTO.
No. 107 – Brandon Stone
Won three weeks ago at Gullane as he almost shot 59 in the final round. He had his entire season that Sunday.
No. 108 – Ryuko Tokimatsu
He’s having a very nice run on the Japan Tour. This is not the Japan Tour.
No. 139 – Richard McEvoy
There’s nothing more shocking than a guy who has won twice in 15 years winning his last two events. That’s exactly what he’s done so he’ll be on everyone’s sleeper list rightfully so.
No. 151 – Wade Ormsby
Can’t make it stretch.
No. 266 – Jaco Ahlers
Jaco Mo Fee Now An Na Ney
Jaco Mo Fee Now Ney
No. 374 – Kodai Ichihara
Picked up his first win in 237 starts in June.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me email@example.com.