Preview: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

Preview – PGA Tour – WGC-Bridgestone Invitational – Firestone Country Club (South Course) – Akron, Ohio –

Tiger Woods enters this week’s World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational with mounting pressure.

The clock is ticking for Woods to earn enough points to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the U.S. Ryder Cup squad. He is the enigma heading into Firestone Country Club in Akron.

Woods returns to the venue where he has eight wins. His last coming a year ago his 79th career PGA Tour title. But, he will have to outplay the strongest field in golf. Recovering from a back injury about a month ago, he has yet to contend.

The 73-player field is one of the strongest of the season including the Top 10 players in the Official World Golf Rankings and all three 2013 major champions: Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy. The event also features no-cut this week.

Redesigned by Robert Trent Jones, the South Course (par 70) plays nearly 7,400 yards. Woods drafted the blueprint for winning here – hit 70 percent of the greens in regulation and make putts from inside 10 feet.

Recent past champions at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational include former major champions Vijay Singh, Woods, Adam Scott and Keegan Bradley.

2013 Recap:

  • Woods (15-under overall) dominated the field sparked by a second-round 61. He finished up seven shots clear of Bradley and Stenson. Miguel Angel Jimenez ended up T-4 alongside Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner. Bill Haas, Kaymer, Jim Furyk and Luke Donald were among those logging a Top 10 effort.

FANTASY: Woods is a must-start this week with his background at Firestone. If you need a European Tour player in this limited field to complete your line up, take Francesco Molinari. Bradley and Stenson play this layout well – both with runner-ups in 2013. Keegan won it here in 2012. The limited field and no-cut tournament allows for leader board changes and back-door Top 5 opportunities. Keep riding the momentum of Furyk, who was runner-up last week in Canada and fourth in England at the Open Championship. He might be on fumes at the moment but is now second in the U.S. Ryder Cup Standings.

BETTING: Rory (7-to-1) is the betting favorite at following his impressive win at the Open. Bet players who need a victory or points for FedEx Cup and Ryder Cup standings like Woods (12-1). They will grind it all weekend, while others might “check out” to prepare for next week’s PGA Championship. Jimenez, at 125-1, is a great long-shot pick in this spot. After contending in every major this year, Rickie Fowler (20-1) is due to win a tournament. Take Keegan at 20-1.

The Golf Channel has exclusive television coverage for the first two rounds and then early coverage on the weekend. CBS Sports features the third and fourth round prime-time action.

Other Golf News:

  • The PGA Tour’s opposite-field event – Barracuda Championship at Montreux Golf & Country Club – tees of Thursday this week. The event features a Modified Stableford scoring system with valuable FedEx Cup points up for grabs with the FedEx Cup Playoffs just weeks away.
  • Furyk ranks 8th on the PGA Tour in Driving Accuracy. He made just two bogey all week in Canada before finishing runner-up to Tim Clark.
  • The Champions Tour’s 3M Championship tees off this week in Minnesota at the TPC Twin Cities. Tom Pernice Jr. returns as defending champion. Bernhard Langer is the 3-1 betting favorite coming off his runaway Senior Open Championship victory. 
  • Sergio Garcia, who contended at the Open, enters this WGC start first on the European Tour in Scoring Average just ahead of McIlroy. Neither player has won a WGC title.