We're in for a real treat this week with all 50 of the World's golfing elite committing to the event as many aim to get their game in check ahead of next week's US PGA Championship, the final Major of the year. In addition, we have a further 31 players who have qualified by other means, including last week's sensational victor Stuart Appleby....you could justifiably make a case for almost all of these players! With such a stellar field on display, we're going to need to cut the field down to a manageable size before making our selections. Here's some factors that will hopefully do just that:
1. Other than Tiger Woods, no-one has won this event at their first attempt...let's assume that will continue. That removes 25 players: Bohn, Bourdy, Davies, Day, Dyson, Fowler, Fraser, Haas, Hanson, Horsey, Ikeda, Ishikawa, Jonzon, Haas, Laird, McGowan, Miyamoto, both Molinaris, Moore, Noren, Oosthuizen, Slocum, Van Pelt and Watson.
2. Players with a link to Florida or Georgia succeed - every single winner since 1997 either has a residence there, schooled there or was brought up from one of those 2 states. That removes Cabrera, Casey, Choi, Fisher, Garcia, Hansen, Harrington, Holmes, Jimenez, Karlsson, Kaymer, Kingston, Matteson, McIlroy, Mickelson, Ogilvy, O'Hair, Otto, Overton, Quiros, Rose, Schwartzel, Scott, Stricker, Watney, Weekley, Weir, Westwood, Yang. [Thanks DT!]
3. Every winner since 2000 has either a win or multiple top 5 finishes on the PGA Tour in the season to date. That removes a further 8 players: Campbell, Cink, Curtis, Leonard, Perry, Singh, Stenson, Wilson. That's better - we now only have 19 players left!
4. The course is long at 7,400 yards as a par 70. For me the winner needs to be someone inside the top 100 at the very least of driving distance. That removes Clark, Crane, Donald, Furyk, Zach Johnson, Kuchar, McDowell & Verplank.
5. There is no room for mistakes on the greens here - missing inside 5 feet is an absolute no-go area. With tough pin placements on undulating greens that measure 13 on the stimpmeter, you need to be holing out well all week to feature. For me, putting inside 5 feet has to be a given so I've removed anyone outside the top 50 for putting 3-5 feet. That removes Allenby, Appleby, Els, Dustin Johnson, Mahan and Villegas.
So that leaves 5 players... on that basis, here's my final team and my tips for the week:
Tiger is impossible to leave out of the staking plan this week, even if it's a win-only bet that more than doubles our overall 10 point stake should he win the tournament. Tiger's played this event 10 times and won it on 7 occasions; the other 3 finishes were 2/4/4 between 2002-04. He's won this the last 4 times he's played it, and this is one of a dwindling number of trophies that he still has in his possession - he won't be keen to let it go, that's for sure!
Last year Tiger's main challenge was keeping his driver in play enough to win, which he duly did - this year his driving is vastly improved, yet it's his putting which has been letting him down. Expect Woods to have evened that out since leaving St Andrews and also expect him to win this comfortably.
Now, in the event that Tiger doesn't retain his trophy, Retief Goosen could be the man most likely to be there to step into his place. The South African has played Firestone 8 times to date and achieved his best finish of 4th in 2008 - he's playing far more consistent golf now than in 2008 and there's no reason to suggest he can't add to his 5 top-5 finishes this season and reward each way punters at a very generous price.
Beware the injured golfer! Well, by the very fact that Kim is playing, I'd say he's sufficiently fit to play and compete here. Yes, he'll be a little rusty, however his form before bowing out for his operation after Quail Hollow was sensational - winner of the Shell Houston Open (on very similar greens in terms of speed and composition), 2nd at the Honda, 3rd at The Masters and 7th at Quail Hollow - all achieved within 5 starts.
Poults has been off the boil since winning the WGC Match Play in such fine style from compatriot Paul Casey, however he'll be keen to add another WGC title to his list and will relish competing against the very best that golf has to offer. 10th at The Masters preceded 2 disappointing finishes at The US Open and at St Andrews where he made the cut both times but never really contended. A top 20 in France in between times was reasonable, however Firestone has been a positive event for him with 4 top-16 finishes from 7 attempts and I'd expect a fired-up Ian Poulter to be in contention come Sunday.
The final player left is Ryan Palmer who I've featured in my top 20 tips - read them here: WGC Double Your Money
All odds and bookmaker offers correct at 19:45BST but naturally subject to fluctuation.