Due to availability issues, we are unable to submit our standard predictions format including safest bet, dark horse, etc. for the Bridgestone Invitational this week. But the world of picking golfers, fantasy golf, gambling, and so forth must go on, and thus, we have decided to instead offer our very own ranking of players this week. We will be offering up 12 names for you to consider, and breaking it down like this: 4 highly favored players who will contend, 4 guys that WE specifically think will contend (household names, but not necessarily favorites), and 4 sleepers you should consider picking that could give you an edge in your leagues. As you already know, this is a World Golf Championship event, so it is a very strong field and there are a lot of powerful names to choose from, so here are our thoughts (Keep in mind they are in no particular order since they are sectioned off into subsets).
1. Jim Furyk – Of everyone in this powerful field, Jim Furyk is my favorite and I will tell you why. Well I don’t need to tell you why, just look at his season. Solo-2 last week, solo-4 at the Open, T12 at the U.S. Open, back to back runner-ups at the Players and Wells Fargo, and 3 more top 10s on the year. Now look at his past four results in this tournament, respectively. T2, T9, T23, T6. The Fury has proven he can play well in this tournament, and he has proven that he is as consistent as anyone on tour this year. Honestly, he will be my favorite next week at the PGA Championship too, and I believe he will win one or the other.
2. Sergio Garcia – Another pick largely driven from having his Open finish (T2) fresh in my memory. But that’s not the only impression Sergio has made this year, in fact he’s made several, including a solo-3 at the Players and a win in Qatar on the European tour against a strong field. Although he has a poor track record on this course, Sergio is poised to have a marquee win this season, and I like his chances better this week than next.
3. Adam Scott – The world number one is two years removed from winning this tournament, and he has held up thus far under the spotlight of being number one. In fact, he won the same week he reached the top, and has had nothing but top 10s ever since, including both the U.S. Open and the Open. There is no reason to think he will stop that pattern now, coming back to a course that fits his eye.
4. Tiger Woods – Where would we be if we didn’t pick Tiger when he shows up all doubters and finds a way to get his 9th win in this tournament… Now I’m not saying that is what’s going to happen; however, no one has as much urgency to do well than Tiger Woods, and he is playing a course that he could probably break 80 with his eyes closed, and could definitely shoot under par while still trying to “find his game.” In such a familiar setting with uncanny history that speaks for itself, in a tournament where he doesn’t have to worry about a cut line, you just can’t bet against Tiger. With that being said, he is at the bottom of our highly favored category for a reason, I would put more stock in any of the above three, or maybe even some of the names to follow.
5. Steve Stricker – You can hardly pick a “veteran” of the course better than Steve Stricker (Outside of Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk). Though he’s played in very few tournaments this season with mixed results, he knows this course like the back of his steady, consistent hand, and that makes it hard to bet against him. I wouldn’t be putting my money on Stricker to win outright, but I expect a top 10 finish, and would be surprised by anything outside a top 15.
6. Ryan Moore – After not having given Ryan Moore any love in the past few weeks and gotten burned, I am ready to jump on the bandwagon. Much like my thoughts for Sergio, Moore has had a solid year, and although he does have a win in 2013 as part of the wraparound season, he is still looking for that marquee win in 2014, especially with the Ryder Cup selections approaching, and I think this could be the week.
7. Marc Leishman – The tall Aussie has somewhat flown under the radar this year, but he’s racked up some great finishes while doing so. After sharing the 54 hole lead at the Quicken Loans National, he faltered to a T8, and outside of that, he has 4 other top 10s on the year, including most recently a T5 with fellow Aussie, Adam Scott, at the Open. He’s ready to become a household name.
8. Jason Dufner – For anyone who had Dufner on their fantasy season last year (cough, me, cough), or who tuned into the PGA Championship last year, you know that this is the time of the season when Jason Dufner really starts firing on all cylinders. And when he’s on, he makes the game look about as pretty as anyone out there. In addition to winning the PGA last year, he earned a T4 in this tournament, coming off a solo-7 in this tournament in 2012. As for this season, Dufner has had a mixed bag of results, and is still itching to get back in the winner’s circle.
9. Gary Woodland – My top sleeper pick of this week. He’s not a total sleeper, because that bomb of a drive gets him plenty of attention. Still, Woodland has been quiet, almost as though he’s been asleep (if you will), for most of the season. That’s not for lack of form, though, as he’s been in contention early in the season, at the Players, and most recently the Byron Nelson. I think people have understandably forgotten about him, but expect Woodland to remind us of his talent this week.
10. Matt Jones – Jones barely made it into this field (through getting his first win earlier this season in a dramatic playoff), but the dude is a competitor. He plays fast, he plays with confidence, and he gets aggressive when he needs to. All of these traits are required for someone who wants to get in contention at a WGC event, and I believe Jones wants to put his stamp on the OWGR with a strong finish here.
11. Jamie Donaldson – Every year at least one European Tour player finishes in the top 10, so you have to pick one. I am picking Jamie Donaldson because he is one of the best, and has proven he can play on American soil with a runner up finish at the WGC Cadillac, as well as a T14 at the Masters.
12. Pablo Larrazabel – This is my second European sleeper, just for good measure. The Spaniard has begun to make a splash on the European Tour. He has 4 top 10s on the season, including winning the Abu Dhabi championship at the beginning of the year, and he also had a T11 at the Scottish Open. He has yet to do anything in the majors, missing cuts at both opens this year, but he is a name worth knowing. Could fashion himself as the next Sergio (though hopefully with aspirations of actually winning a major…)
*Note that two of the biggest favorites were not mentioned: Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler. Though Fowler’s consistency in majors this year speaks for itself, both of these players are not known for their consistency, or their ability to follow up a strong finish with another. I am predicting both of these players to be non-factors this week.