Defending Champ: Tiger Woods
Choosing a roster for the Bridgestone Invitational all boils down to one question: Take Tiger or not? Since I have a strong inclination that the public is going to fade crusty ol’ Eldrick, count me in on the contrarian play. WELCOME TO THE TEAM TIGER!!!!
Now, you need to know your competition. If you play in a casual league featuring members that know very little about golf, chances are, they’re going to take Tiger every time he’s lacing up the spikes – he’s one of the few names they know. Still, because of his injuries and recent underwhelming play, don’t expect to see Tiger’s name penciled (digitally penciled, that is) into many lineups. Some may see his Open Championship performance (69th!!!) as a sign he can’t contend, but I choose to focus on the positives: In two starts since returning from back surgery, Woods has improved each time. He may not be lapping the field like vintage Tiger, but he’s slowly getting back to that point. Considering he couldn’t bend down to retrieve his ball from the cup two months ago, making the cut at a Major should have been seen an accomplishment, not a disaster. Don’t except Tiger to flash the consistency of any of the world’s top players in the immediate future, but I can definitely see this week being an aberration. I mean, he’s won this event eight times in the tournament’s 15 year history. And, the thing that’s plagued him lately has been the loss of his putting stroke, but at a course where his familiarly with the greens is unmatched, I would suspect that’s not going to be much of an issue at Firestone.
Is this a needlessly risky move? Probably. There’s a 94.3-percent I’m just a sucker of Tiger because I want so desperately for him to win. However track record always gets heavy consideration in strong fields like this (especially at repeat locations), and no one’s is close to as good in Akron. Plus, if there’s an event to take a few gambles, it’s one where there’s no cut. The 77 entrants will be teeing off for all four rounds, regardless of score, making it easier to avoid a Fantasy fiasco if Tiger opens with an awful Thursday. For the rest of the picks, I’ll continue to lean on event history, with a combination of GIR%, scrambling, long iron proximity and total driving.
HIT THE LINKS
I’d totally forgot Ernie Els had a blog.
Have lawyers created Ryder Cup tension between Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell?
Beware of Phil, Sergio & Bubba this week at Firestone: Since 2009, they have no T20 or better finishes between them (0/14) #FantasyGolf
— Patrick Mayo (@ThePME) July 28, 2014
— Patrick Mayo (@ThePME) July 28, 2014
Charles Barkley on Tiger, “We’re not friends anymore.”
What’s the deal with Jim Furyk and runner up finishes?
With his 13-stroke, run away win in the UK and utter dominance on the Senior Tour in 2014, has 56-year-oldBernhard Langer played himself on to the European Ryder Cup squad?
Remember the ball that Rory launched into the crowd on the 72nd hole at Royal Liverpool? Well, now you can buy it.
Wonder why Dustin Johnson flamed out at the Canadian Open? I blame cleavage, Paulina’s cleavage…
Tiger Woods & Adam Scott – If I’m taking the Tiger plunge, I need safety. That comes in the form of the world’s No. 1 player. The Aussie arrives in Akron with four straight Top 10s overall and a quality past at Firestone – T14, T45, 1st, T9 the last four years; expected results for the Tour leader in All-Around ranking. If you really don’t want to go with Tiger but do want a pick that goes against the grain, take Patrick Reed, he always players better in stronger fields.
Jason Dufner & Keegan Bradley – As mentioned, I’m choosing to weigh heavily on past success on this site. 2014’s been a struggle for consistency with Dufner as he’s posted just four Top 10s in 15 starts, yet this layout his perfect for his pin stalking ways. And really, his lousy recent play isn’t much different than last year. He entered with just a lone Top 10 before posting a T4 at the Bridgestone. In fact, in two career starts Duf Daddy has never finished worse than seventh. This is a birdie makers haven, and very few stalk pins like Dufner. It’s simple with Keegs: start him and enjoy the Fantasy points. The past three years he’s churned out a win, T2 and T15. Everything Bradley does well translates perfectly to this setup, ranking inside the Top 20 in total driving, birdie average, par breakers, Par 3 performance and, maybe most importantly, proximity to the pin on approaches from beyond 200 yards.
Steve Stricker & Rory McIlroy – Rory has three Top 10s at this event the last four years and, obviously, enters hot. I like him a lot, he’s the favorite, but so does everyone else. Since I’m attempting to create a points gap between my roster and the competitions’, he’s starting the week on the bench. And Stricker, the king of the Midwest, earns his spot because of past performance. He hasn’t cashed anything worse than a 14th place paycheck at the Bridgestone since 2008. Be warned, though: his final round scoring average of 72.00, is almost two strokes worse than any other round, and would be 150th on Tour if he had the starts to qualify. So, if you’re going to use him, do it any other day besides Sunday.
Brendon Todd & Louis Oosthuizen – The Y! “C-List” is tough this week. I’d wager many are favoriting Sergio Garcia after his stellar performance at the Open Championship; I’ll swerve on that selection. Sergio hasn’t notched a finish inside the Top 20 at Firestone since 2005. Pass. Todd has a permanent spot on my team until I run out of usages, he’s been too damn good. And if you’re worried that he’s never played Firestone before, DON’T – it hasn’t affected him at any other point this year. How good has he been? Well, for the season, Todd’s Top 10 in SG-Putting (3rd), Sand Save Percentage (9th), scoring average (10th), Par 3 birdies or better (9th), scrambling (5th), Par 5 performance (10th) putting from 5-15’ (5th) and average distance of putts made (6th). After seeing that you shouldn’t be surprised that he has seven Top 10 finishes, third most on Tour. Then there’s Lucky Louis. I always worry about back injuries, but he powered through at the Open Championship, remaining in the mix until late on Sunday, and he’s finished inside the Top 10 at this event in two of his three career starts. A solid upside bench guy.
Photo via Getty