Joel Cook analyzes the elite field gathered in Akron, Ohio for the last World Golf Championships event to be contested at historic Firestone Country Club in this week’s 2018 WGC Bridgestone Invitational Power Rankings.
In its usual position on the PGA schedule, one week before the PGA Championship, this year’s edition of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will have a sullen feel to northeast Ohio golf fans, as this it will mark the last year the event is held at historic Firestone Country Club in Akron.
Fortunately for those same fans, it appears the tournament is going to go out with a bang, as every member of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings is participating. Tiger Woods, playing the tournament for the first time since 2014 will be the center of attention, just like he was in each of his eight(!) victories in 15 career starts.
We like Tiger again this week, and who wouldn’t? But in a tournament so stacked, his history only means so much. Here are the 15 players (Tiger plus 14 others) to watch most closely at the season’s final WGC event.
WGC-BRIDGESTONE INVITATIONAL POWER RANKINGS
15. Zach Johnson
Still looking for his first career WGC triumph, Johnson was the 54-hole leader at last year’s WGC-Bridgestone, but became the biggest victim of Hideki Matsuyama’s ungodly Sunday. That runner-up finish was part of a positive trend for ZJ though, as he now has top-10s in four of his last seven trips to Akron.
Two top 10s in 20 events on the 2018 season does not look super impressive, but he made the weekend in 19 of those 20 starts, and his last four have all been in the 12th-19th place range. ZJ took last week off after contending at The Open, even co-leading after two rounds.
World Rank: 51
2017 Bridgestone: 2nd
Last Six: 17, 16, 19, 12, 40, MC
14. Tommy Fleetwood
Despite one of the weaker fields of any event the World No. 11 Fleetwood will play this year, a T6 was still a good showing last week in his RBC Canadian Open debut, which came fresh off the fields of a disappointing weekend at The Open Championship, where he faded to T12 after a Friday 65 had him very close to the lead.
The 27-year-old Brit is still looking for his first win on American soil, but he has been good in PGA events as of late, with just one of his past eight PGA starts placing outside of the top 17.
World Rank: 11
2017 Bridgestone: 2nd
Last Six: 6, 12, MC, 59, 2, 23
13. Justin Thomas
Since a Win-2-4 stretch in March, with those latter two coming in WGC events, the only man other than Dustin Johnson to reach World No. 1 in 2018 has looked downright ordinary, with a T8 at both The Memorial and French Open being his only top 10s in the past four months.
Thomas’ last two PGA Tour starts have been especially poor, as he followed up a puzzling T56 at the Travelers Championship with a missed cut at The Open Championship. Still, with two victories on the season and 14 top 25s in 17 events, JT cannot be counted out any week, and he should be extra motivated to get his game on track for when he defends his 2017 PGA Championship title next week.
World Rank: 3
2017 Bridgestone: T28
Last Six: MC, 8, 56, 25, 8, 11
12. Jordan Spieth
Shockingly, the three-time major winner has yet to capture a WGC event, but his best result was two years ago at Firestone, where he finished T3 behind Dustin Johnson and Scott Piercy. It would be easy to get down on Spieth after how awful he played at The Open Championship from the final group on Sunday, falling from the co-lead to T9 after a birdie-free 76, but it was the first time that he had been anywhere close to contention in nearly four months, and he claims to be encouraged by how good he was hitting his flatstick, which had been the biggest culprit in his recent slide.
It might finally be coming back together for Spieth, and a great performance this week could give him tremendous momentum at next week’s PGA Championship, where he will be attempting to win the Career Grand Slam at just 25 years old.
World Rank: 8
2017 Bridgestone: T13
Last Six: 9, 42, MC, MC, 32, 21
11. Jason Day
Add the 30-year-old Aussie to the list of elite players who have not looked quite right lately, as Day has spent little time in contention since opening up with two rounds of 68 at The Memorial. His iron game has seldomly been on-point in 2018, but he has ridden a phenomenal short game (he leads the Tour in strokes gained: around-the-green and strokes gained: putting) to a resurgent season that has seen two victories and a runner-up.
Currently fifth in the FedExCup standings, a final-round 68 at Carnoustie could be a sign that his game is heading back in the right direction. Day held the lead on the 15th tee box on Sunday of the 2016 WGC-Bridgestone, but played his final four in 4-over to drop to T3. He also finished T4 in 2011.
World Rank: 10
2017 Bridgestone: T24
Last Six: 17, 12, MC, 44, 5, 1
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