Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas might want to consider applying for a Canadian visa. He is not having a good season on the PGA Tour with nine missed cuts and five straight entering last week’s Canadian Open at Glen Abbey. Then all Vegas did was defend his 2016 title by shooting a 21-under 267, beating Charley Hoffman in a playoff.
Vegas is the first repeat winner of the tournament since Jim Furyk in 2006-07. Now the Tour heads to Akron, Ohio, for this week’s big-money World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. Here’s a look at the Sports Interaction golf favourites and odds on the Canadians.
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Background
You have to qualify for the WGC-Bridgestone, hence the name Invitational. There are 78 qualifiers this year, including 33 of the Top 35 in the FedEx Cup standings. This tournament really kicks off the home stretch of the 2016-17 PGA Tour wraparound season with the PGA Championship in two weeks and then the season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs. Those who didn’t qualify to play at Bridgestone are likely in the opposite-field event, the Barracuda Championship, held in Reno, Nevada this week.
The WGC-Bridgestone is held at Firestone Country Club’s South course, which measures 7,400 yards and is a par 70. This tournament has been staged since 1999 and all at Firestone except in 2002. Tiger Woods has won this event a record eight times, last in 2013. He’s the only multiple-time champion. Woods holds the 72-hole record of 259 in 2000. He also is tied for the 18-hole course record of 61.
One guy who is qualified but not here is Brandt Snedeker. He withdrew from the British Open with an injury to his sternum joint, hoped to play last week at Glen Abbey but pulled out there as well. He’s now targeting the PGA Championship.
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Favourites
Reigning British Open champion Jordan Spieth is the +700 favourite. Spieth beat Matt Kuchar in a magnificent duel at Royal Birkdale to win the Claret Jug for the first time in his career. Spieth also won his tournament before that, the Travelers Championship, on a chip in from a bunker in a playoff. So he’s looking for a very rare three tournament winning streak, something world No. 1 Dustin Johnson accomplished earlier this year. Spieth has a best finish of third at the WGC-Bridgestone, coming last year.
Johnson and Rory McIlroy are each +900. DJ is the defending champion, finishing at 6-under 274 last year to beat Scott Piercy by a shot. Johnson shot a final-round 66. Only nine players finished under par in tough conditions last year overall, the fewest since Woods was the only player to break par in 2007.
McIlroy will have a new caddie on his bag after splitting with long-time partner J.P. Fitzgerald this week. Fitzgerald had been on McIlroy’s bag for nine years. Odd timing considering McIlroy praised Fitzgerald’s work at the British Open after the Northern Irishman finished fourth. McIlroy won here in 2014 at 15 under, two ahead of Sergio Garcia. He hasn’t played the Bridgestone since.
Just two Canadians in the field: world No. 56 Adam Hadwin, who is +20000, and world No. 112 Mackenzie Hughes (+25000). It’s the first time in this tournament for both. Hadwin missed the cut last week, his third straight MC this year. Hughes was 32nd at the Canadian Open. The likes of Graham DeLaet and David Hearn are playing in Nevada.
A Canadian has never won this tournament.
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Predictions
It’s next-to-impossible to not just win three tournaments in a row but also your first after a major that I can’t recommend Spieth to win, but roll the dice on a Top 10 finish. Length off the tee would be helpful as Firestone is the longest par 70 of the non-majors. Americans have won the vast majority of the events at Firestone as well. My value pick is Kevin Chappell at +6600. He comes off an eighth-place finish last week and was third in his tournament debut here in 2016.