2014 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Picks + Predictions, Plus the Driver-Off-The-Deck BOLD Play of the Week #OhHelloAkron

It’s a bittersweet transition this week as the PGA Tour returns to the U.S. following its annual fortnight abroad for the British + Canadian Opens.  I label it bittersweet because I love this week’s tourney- the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone; however, it’s also always a depressing place on the Tour’s schedule as it’s officially the beginning of the end of the summer.  How in the world is it nearly August already?  How is there only one major left this season?  Why is it only 70 degrees out in late July right now?  When will TaylorMade be releasing its 11th driver of the year?  Will Jim Furyk ever win again?  Is Fabrizio Zanotti really a golfer in the field this week or is he going to drive his Formula One car onto the course?  Why does Tiger keep trying to make his swing even worse?  Those are all of the questions that we keep asking, and hey, perhaps we’ll get answers to some of those this week.

In German, Firestone means long and beastly tough.  Ok, I made that up.  But seriously, it’s a challenging, yet fair course with long rough, blazing fast greens and trees galore.  At 7,400 yards and a par 70, a driver-pitch-and-putt it is most certainly not.  It’s a rare occurrence these days when the longest of long hit driver a double digit number of times each round, but such is the case for our own viewing pleasure this week.

The tourney is an exclusive 78 player field and it has no cut, meaning that Dustin Johnson may actually see the weekend this week (oh wait- he just withdrew, badaboom).  In all seriousness though, Jim Furyk, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth, Charl Schwartzel, Keegan Bradley….many others and yes, 382-time champ Tiger Woods all in the field for a non-major?  In the voice of my native Minnesota brethren- ok, ya sure, you betcha- I’ll be watching.

A mostly solid week for my picks last week at the RBC Canadian Open as my Lockzilla Jim Furyk finished solo 2nd, my Driver-off-the-Deck BOLD play of the week Graham DeLaet finished t-7th and I spot on nailed Dustin Johnson missing the cut.  I did miss on both Charley Hoffman and Bo Van Pelt, as they both missed the cut by one shot each.

Now, let’s hop into some picks for this week:

LOCKZILLAS (Last Week: Furyk 2nd, Hoffman MC)

Keegan Bradley
Keegan Bradley
– The 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone champ finished a distant 7 strokes behind last year’s winner Tiger Woods; however, that was good enough for a t-2nd place finish as Tiger lapped the field (again).  Keegan has quietly been regaining his form of late, finishing t-4th at Greenbrier and t-19th at the British Open in his last two starts, and make no mistake about it- he’s not at all pleased to be sitting at 16th in the Ryder Cup standings with a limited number of tourneys left on the season.  Watch for Keegs to notch another top 5 finish this week, and then maybe he can one-up Phil’s text message when he wins.

Steve Stricker
Steve Stricker
– Many gamers will avoid Stricks this week simply because of his “part-time” approach and particularly because he skipped the British Open (they’ll say- oh, he’s done for the year)- not so fast my friends.  Stricker’s worst finish here in his past five appearances was a solo 14th in 2011, which in case you haven’t scoured the annual field that this tourney draws, is some pretty impressive stuff.  Despite fading to a Sunday 72 at the John Deere Classic, he still finished t-11th in his last start.  Expect another top 10 from Stricks again this week.

SEMI-FLIER (Last Week: Van Pelt MC)

Jimmy Walker
Jimmy Walker
– No course history here and a cool down in his game of late will have many people skimming past his name for their predictions posts this week, but the man who is still perched atop the FedEx Cup Standings and who ranks 6th in Strokes Gained-Putting, 18th in Driving Distance and 29th in GIR on Tour is someone I simply will not overlook this week.  Jimmy just seems to fit the property well, and I expect a top 10 with possibly even a chance to win on Sunday from him this week.

HOSEL-ROCKET BUST (Last Week: Dustin Johnson MC)

Graeme McDowell
Graeme McDowell
– Graeme has been playing some mighty solid golf of late, winning on the European Tour in Paris, then following it up with a t-9th at the British Open and also a t-9th at last week’s RBC Canadian Open.  But, it’s time for big ol’ sir reality to set in, as Graeme NEVER plays well for long stretches, is not long off the tee and has never cracked the top 20 here at Firestone in a whopping seven tries.  He’s teeing it up simply for the paycheck in this cut-less tourney this week, expect a total snoozer of a t-35th-ish or worse finish for Graeme this week.

DRIVER-OFF-THE-DECK BOLD PLAY OF THE WEEK (Last Week: DeLaet t-7th)

Bill Haas
Bill Haas
– Any other week, Bill Haas would be more of a top tier name in the field.  But this week, with the likes of, well, everyone-who-is-anyone in the game of golf teeing it up, Haas is certainly coming in well under the radar.  Even though it’s a cut-less event, the fact that Haas still hasn’t missed a cut all season on the PGA Tour (WD during the RBC Heritage is only time he didn’t play the weekend), is a model of extreme consistency.  His form of late has been just so-so, but note that he finished t-7th here last year and t-19th in ’12 and he’s clearly comfortable on this track.  Bill Haas is your Driver-off-the-Deck BOLD play of the week!

#isitThursdayyet

Joel Harrington
@joel4deepgolf

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