For the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational power rankings, I've dug down deep in an effort to identify the 2013 champion. My research led my down an avenue I didn't necessarily expect when I penned yesterday’s preview, and that was the correlation of trends of the recent winners at Firestone CC (South).
I looked at each winner all the way back to Stewart Cink in 2004, with the exception of just looking at the Tiger Woods 2009 win and not the one’s prior. I found the following trends:
- Each winner has finished first or second in a PGA TOUR/major/WGC tournament leading up to his win at Firestone.
- Each winner except Keegan Bradley missed the cut in either the U.S. Open or the Open Championship that year. Bradley was T68 in the U.S. Open. The point isn't necessarily to latch onto guys who failed at Merion or Muirfield, rather not to discount a guy just because he missed the cut in one.
- Each made the cut in that year’s Masters, and all but Bradley (T27) finished inside the top 20.
- Each had a top 10 at Doral except Mahan (T30) and Cink (T17).
That perspective added some clarity to the criteria already established.
When it was all said and done, here’s what we this week’s power rankings look like:
- Tiger Woods – He scored well in my statistical analysis and has won seven of his 13 starts in this event. He won at Doral and was fourth at the Masters, and my nugget on the U.S. and British Opens has me a little more confidant in el Tigre.
- Adam Scott – The reverse of Tiger, he was third at Doral and won the Masters. He’s also a past champ at Firestone CC (2011). He’s had a great year and scored well in my statistical breakdown as well.
- Phil Mickelson – I cringe a little having Lefty this high, and I don’t like his T54 at the Masters, but he’s earned this spot since he won his last two starts. He’s nabbed five top 10s in this event, but never won it. I wouldn't go one-and-done on him here by any means, but he deserves consideration in other formats.
- Justin Rose – Eighth at Doral, 25th at the Masters and a winner at the U.S. Open is a solid resume. He has three top 10s in eight starts at Firestone, including a T5 last year and a T2 in 2007. First in total driving and fourth in ball-striking, this should be a green light.
- Matt Kuchar – He’s creeping his way up my radar this week, and it has very little to do with his T2 at the RBC Canadian Open. It has more to do with his two wins this season, two top 10s in his last three starts at Firestone and a T8 at the Masters. Not a perfect fit, but not bad either.
- Brandt Snedeker – When Sneds gets hot, he often stays hot for a while so it’s a good time to buy some B.S. stock in general. The caution is his record at Firestone. In three starts, he’s never cracked the top 30. My assessment would be that this course demands more from the driver than he can offer. Finished 6th at the Masters.
- Steve Stricker – Tied for second here last year and has three top 10s in six starts. Also was second to Tiger at Doral and 20th at the Masters. His form/lack of play make him a risk, but everything else is in place.
- Angel Cabrera – The big guy has finished fourth here three times, the most recent being 2009. And in 2009, he won the Masters. This year he finished second at the Masters and has been amazingly consistent. Stats and form are also good.
- Keegan Bradley – The defending champ makes his third start at Firestone, with a T15 in 2011 the other return. Seventh at Doral lines up nicely for this week, but his T54 at Augusta National does not.
- Dustin Johnson – DJ was another of those guys that kept getting better the longer I looked at him. He has a win and finished inside the top 15 at both the Masters and Doral. He also was tied for the lead last week before making a triple on the 71st hole. He peaked for the Playoffs last year and may do the same again. BUT, he doesn't have a top 10 at Firestone in four starts despite three top 25s. Feels like he’ll finish about 12th.
- Henrik Stenson – The Swede’s record in this event only shows two top 25s in six starts, but his form and statistical fit are undeniable. He was 18th at the Masters and has a couple of runner-ups this year.
- Bill Haas – Not exactly a site of great success for Haas, but with wins at Riviera and Colonial in the last two years, there are few limits to where he will show up.
Next 5: Jason Day, Jason Dufner, Bill Haas, Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Lee Westwood
I’ll give you one this week.
- Martin Laird – He’s finished T16, T11 and T29 in his three starts at Firestone CC, generally seems to be in good form and is a really good driver of the golf ball. The missed cut at the Masters is a red flag, but he’s found his game since then.
I will return tomorrow with a look at some games, as well as coverage for the Reno-Tahoe Open.
Best of luck!