The WGC Bridgestone Invitational preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
Congratulations to Dustbin for holding his nerves at Oakmont. He tees it up here full of confidence no doubt and reasonably assured that the PGA Tour officials will not leaving him hanging mid round with a dodgy ruling.
The after effects of Oakmont necessitated a break for your correspondent and fully refreshed from time spent at the Euro 2016 football tournament – we’re back!
What to make of the WGC? Defending Champion Shame Lowry returns after his disappointing effort on Sunday at Oakmont. A cheery chap, who knows, it may wash over him.
A legendary event on the calendar won no less than eight times by Tiger. Firestone, Akron, Ohio all truly evocative of the Tour and America if you’re a kid growing up following the Tour.
The field, while brimming with talent, is compromised by the staging of the 100th Open De France supported, quite rightly, by some serious golfers whose roots are in Europe. Can any tournament claim to be a World event without Rory and the current Masters champion?
You see this is what the Olympics does – it corrupts.
Brexit, the Olympics, the IAAF, Fifa….does golf even need these tainted brands? No.
Some very strong trends appear to emerge when reflecting on this event. At 7,400 yards par 70 with one par 5, the awesome 667 yard 16th unreachable, this is a beast. Some great driving performances have underpinned many winners over the years until you consider Tiger who managed to win this endlessly. So while the suggestion is you need to be long and straight, and while yes long hitters do well, Jimmy The F has 4 top 5’s in his last 6 starts here. Milky? Surprisingly he has just one top 10 in his last 12 attempts. He clearly doesn’t get on with the place. Dustbin is the same. So is it long or straight, or short and straight, or long and straight? Clearly the later is ideal.
Consider Bubba who last year posted his first top 10 when he was flying. He came 2nd with just 46% of fairways hit but because of the less than punitive rough hit 72% of the greens. His previous best here was 19th. That result was an anomaly born of a man in freakish form and missing the fairways in the right places. Not a strategy you can count on.
I’m inclined to think that turning up year after year on a track where you never perform has to leave a mark so we’ll look to those with good memories or no memories.
We’ll start with Brooks Koepka.
Tied 6th on debut last year with all four rounds in the 60’s Brookes takes over from Patrick as our leading stable star. Crucially he seems to play in short bursts which – planned or not – keeps him fresh, and it works. Two runners up finishes from his last 4 starts allied to great numbers suggest he’s a major contender here. Lets look at the numbers. Ranked 15th in the world with a 2016 stroke average of 69.872. Averages over 300 of the tee with 58% of fairways and 67% of greens hit. One win, 2 seconds and 15 top 10’s from 57 starts on the PGA Tour. Ranked 5th is strokes gained off the tee and 35th in putting this is a great combination for Firestone and Koepka has earned his place at the top end of the market in this restricted field.
A debutant to compliment Koepka. Dan Burger in less than 2 full seasons on the PGA Tour has won 5.6 million dollars. A win, 2 seconds and 10 top 10’s from 51 starts is an impressive achievement. He’s not short at 299 off the tee and with 56% of fairways and 67% of greens in reg plus a 0.329 strokes gained putting figures it’s self evident this kid is classy and will win truckloads of cash in his career. No debutant bar Tiger in the initial year has won but that is a bogus perspective. Berger has the confidence of youth and proven performance to bring it all to the table. Plus he’s 66/1!