WGC Bridgestone Invitational Tips

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Paul Williams' Tips for the 2016 WGC Bridgestone Invitational. Follow Paul on twitter: @golfbetting

The third WGC event of the season takes place this week in a busy few days for golf with regular events also taking place on the European Tour (Open de France) and PGA Tour (Barracuda Championship). From 75 qualifiers who were likely to play had this event been in its normal August slot prior to the US PGA Championship, we're instead left with just 60 runners and riders with a whole host of European Tour players opting to play in France instead in a bid to enhance their Ryder Cup chances. Rory McIlroy, Chris Wood, Danny Willett, Jamie Donaldson, Lee Westwood, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Rory McIlroy, Thorbjorn Olesen, Victor Dubuisson, Andy Sullivan, Kristoffer Broberg, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Bernd Wiesberger have all opted to head to Le Golf National this week, as has Thongchai Jaidee, and both Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson are taking the week off completely.

Firestone Country Club (South Course), Akron, Ohio. Designer: Bert Way 1928 with Robert Trent Jones renovation 1960; Course Type: Technical; Par: 70; Length: 7,400 yards; Bunkers: 82; Fairways: Pencross Bentgrass/Poa Annua; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass with Perennial Ryegrass; Greens: Bent/Poa Annua; Stimpmeter: 13ft.

Course Overview. The tough 7,400 yard par 70 - which is regularly in the top third of course difficulty stats - features tight, tree-lined fairways leading to bent/poa greens that will measure around 13 on the stimp. 6 of the par 4s are over 450 yards and the brutal 677 yard, par-5 16th is a match for even the longest of hitters. The short par 5 second hole is a birdie or eagle chance for the whole field, however the layout soon toughens up with the long par-4 4th and 6th holes that regularly play amongst the hardest on the course. Long, straight hitting tends to be the order of the day, however players who can get within birdie range will find that the excellent greens here are scoreable.

Tournament Stats. We've published some key player statistics for this week's WGC Bridgestone Invitational that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Top 20 Finishes.

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Winners & Prices. 2015: Shane Lowry, 150/1; 2014: Rory McIlroy, 7/1; 2013: Tiger Woods, 5/1; 2012: Keegan Bradley, 60/1; 2011: Adam Scott, 50/1; 2010: Hunter Mahan, 50/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the European Tour for the past 5 years based on the 2016 schedule click here.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Akron, Ohio is here. It looks like we should be in for a perfect week for golf with warm temperatures approaching 80 Fahrenheit and generally light winds of 5-10 mph throughout.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

Analysing the final stats of the past 6 winners here at Firestone gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

Fairways are tight and even the straightest players from off the tee are likely to be playing out of the rough with regularity, so the ability to find putting surfaces from both the rough and fairway is important. All 6 players above ranked inside the top-14 for putting on the week with McIlroy the worst at 1.70 putts per GIR, although that was enough given he'd led the field for greens hit on the week.

Over those 6 renewals, the average birdie haul of the eventual winner has been just over 20 on the week - give that there are only two par 5s, and going for the 16th in two shots isn't possible for the majority of the field, players will need to compile a decent score on the par 4s around this course in order to get into a contending position. Taking advantage of the shorter par 5 2nd hole is a must, however birdies need to be found with a fair amount of regularity on the par 4s.

There are some rock solid trends from recent years to consider in this event when formulating a shortlist:

Trends are there to be broken of course, however for me it makes sense on a track like this - with the World's best players in attendance - that these factors should help define the blueprint of this year's champion.

World No.1 Jason Day heads the betting this week and although he's difficult to dismiss anywhere where he tees it up in the world right now, he has struggled a little with the tee-to-green demands of Firestone in the past and a best of 4th here was 5 years ago now. It will be interesting to see how US Open champion Dustin Johnson fares over the next few weeks and months having finally got over the line in a Major, however he'll be a watching brief for me in the short term. Jordan Spieth has struggled a little from tee to green of late and he'll need to up his game in that respect here this week if he's going to contend.

Bookmaker Offers. A couple of bookmaker offers out there this week at Firestone:

My selections are as follows:

Bubba Watson 2pts EW 25/1 with Paddy Power £250 Free Bet NEW OFFER! Bet £/€10 get £/€30 free plus 6 places EW, 1/5 odds: Paddy Power Free Bet

If this was purely a box-ticking exercise then I'd be leading with Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose this week based on my analysis of this event, however golf betting is rarely that straightforward and there are off-putting aspects for both. Fowler did at least make the cut last week at Congressional after 3 weekends off, however after a promising first two days he drifted badly over the weekend to finish 44th in a field far worse than this. Rose has only been seen once since pulling out of the BMW PGA Championship with back issues, however his missed cut in that one appearance at Oakmont hardly excites either and instead I'm backing last year's runner up Bubba Watson to go one better this time around.

Aside from his performance last year where he ranked inside the top 5 for Total Driving and Ball Striking whilst leading the field in Greens in Regulation, Bubba also interests me given his extensive PGA Tour success on Bent/Poa putting surfaces and the tougher, technical tests that the schedule presents. His most recent win at Riviera in February is an excellent case in point as he tamed that layout for the second time in three years to secure his 9th career victory on the PGA Tour. Bubba for me is the type of player who performs consistently well on the same tracks and in the same events, whereas the tracks and events he doesn't get on with he's virtually written off mentally before he's even swung a club. Twice a winner at TPC River Highlands, twice a winner at Augusta - plus of course twice at Riviera CC as mentioned - reinforces this view and despite some seemingly indifferent form of late at The Memorial and Players Championship where he's previously notched up just one career top-10 finish combined in those events, I'm happy to give him a chance here this week.

Bubba's an emotional type as we've seen first hand on a number of occasions and the flooding at Greenbrier which has resulted in next week's event being cancelled could also act as extra motivation for him to perform here. The 37 year-old has a residence near Old White TPC and it was his images that alerted the wider world of the state of the course following the recent deluge in the area and I wouldn't put it past Bubba to up his game this week as some kind of statement to the people affected. Tenuous some will argue I'm sure, however for me Bubba's that kind of character and when you add in his effort last year, season form on favoured courses and strokes gained from off the tee (2nd) and tee-to-green (7th) rankings, I'm struggling to find any reason to oppose him here this week. RESULT: T14

Charl Schwartzel 1.25pts EW 40/1 with Paddy Power £250 Free Bet NEW OFFER! Bet £/€10 get £/€30 free plus 6 places EW, 1/5 odds: Paddy Power Free Bet

A WGC event is always jam-packed with quality, even with a few notables missing as we have this week, and a case can of course be me made for a whole host of players.  One who sticks out more than most to me is Charl Schwartzel who warmed up gently for this in a low-key event in Japan where he finished 5th last weekend, ranking 4th for GIR and 1st for birdies on the week (24 total). 4th here at Firestone in 2014, the 31 year-old secured his first regular season PGA Tour victory earlier this year at the Valspar Championship and in doing so completed a hat-trick of global wins in the space of just 6 events. For me the South African is the kind of player who blows hot and cold, although he's now of a standard where his cold isn't generally that bad, however get him on a hot streak and he can be devastating. Aside from last week's effort in a significantly lower standard of field, 23rd at the US Open is far from disastrous and that followed 11th at Memorial where he co-led the birdie count once again alongside Dustin Johnson. We all know what then happened to DJ, however Schwartzel is clearly scoring well, driving the ball well (6th for accuracy at Oakmont) and his irons last week were excellent. 40/1 is well worth an investment in my opinion. RESULT: T7

Marc Leishman 1pt EW 66/1 with Paddy Power £250 Free Bet NEW OFFER! Bet £/€10 get £/€30 free plus 6 places EW, 1/5 odds: Paddy Power Free Bet

Scott Piercy 0.75pt EW 80/1 with Paddy Power £250 Free Bet NEW OFFER! Bet £/€10 get £/€30 free plus 6 places EW, 1/5 odds: Paddy Power Free Bet

A couple of slightly longer prices to complete my selections. Firstly Marc Leishman who has flattered to deceive over the past few weeks but is still well capable of contending if he can align all aspects of his game here this week. Plenty long enough off the tee at an average 295 yards to compete here, the Australian finished 3rd in 2014 and clearly has the measure of these greens having recorded putting averages of 1.60 (2nd) and 1.67 (7th) over the past two renewals. 13th at the Dean & Deluca Invitational, 11th at the Memorial and 18th at the US Open all pointed towards a strong performance at Congressional last week which sadly didn't happen as the putts dried up, however 77.8% GIR on the week is still encouraging and a return to Firestone where he's putted so well of late could be the final ingredient required for success. 4th at Augusta (2013), 5th at Royal Liverpool (2014) and 2nd at St Andrews (2015) highlights a player who can comfortably rub shoulders with the golfing elite and I'm prepared to give him another shot this week at twice the price of his SP 7 days ago. RESULT: T55

Red hot course form isn't a pre-requisite for success here as Shane Lowry proved last year, however with a couple of efforts here at Firestone under his belt and a best of 19th in 2012, I'm willing to give Scott Piercy a shot here at an attractive price after such a bold showing at the US Open a fortnight ago. The Las Vegas resident produced the best Major performance of his career to finish in a tie for 2nd behind Dustin Johnson and his ball-striking was excellent throughout, particularly on the Saturday when he missed just one green on such a tough golf course. 3rd for scrambling was also excellent given the demands of Oakmont and he can take a massive boost of confidence that he contended in a Major Championship right until the last few holes. Piercy is plenty long enough off the tee to compete here and at his best is a decent ball-striker who performs well on Bent/Poa putting surfaces. 5th at the US PGA Championship in 2013 prior to his effort a fortnight back and 2nd at the WGC HSBC Champions back in 2012 shows that Scott isn't overawed in strong company and a decent week here wouldn't be the shock that his price suggests in my opinion. RESULT: 2nd

Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel

Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 13:15BST 28.6.16 but naturally subject to fluctuation. Author Paul Williams, Find us on Google+




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