Experts' picks: WGC-Bridgestone

July, 29, 2014
07/29/14
10:33
AM ET

Each week of the season, our experts share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week, the PGA Tour is at Firestone Country Club's South Course in Akron, Ohio, for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Keegan Bradley
In three starts in the event, he's got a win, a runner-up and a T-15 finish his first year. Although this year hasn't produced a victory, tinkering with a non-anchored putting stroke and the coming rule change might have affected him more than he's let on. That being said, this is just what the Ryder Cup doctor has ordered to help Bradley get back on Tom Watson's radar.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Keegan Bradley
In three career starts at Firestone, the 2011 PGA champion has had a tie for 15th, a win in 2012 and last year tied for second.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
Nobody has dominated at Firestone like Woods, who won this tournament a year ago by 7 shots and has won the event eight times. Whether that will mean much this week as he continues his return from back surgery will be of great interest.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Justin Rose
He didn't pull off the three straight wins at the Open Championship (after winning at Congressional and the Scottish Open), but he does own three top-5s in his career at Firestone.


Birdie Buster

Collins: Rory McIlroy
No hangover allowed for the Open champ. When there's a guaranteed four rounds coming, even if he has that one bad round he's had in the past, it won't keep him from achieving a top-10 finish. He's done that at Firestone three of the past five times he's played this event.

Evans: Jim Furyk
The 16-time PGA Tour winner hasn't won since the 2010 Tour Championship, but it hasn't been because of poor play. In 2014, he has seven top-10s, including three seconds. In his past two starts -- in the Open Championship and the RBC Canadian Open -- he has a fourth and second, respectively.

Harig: Tim Clark
The South African birdied five of his last eight holes Sunday at Royal Montreal to win the RBC Canadian Open, just his second PGA Tour title.

Maguire: Jordan Spieth
Prior to his T-36 at the Open Championship, the now-just-turned-21 Spieth posted top-20 finishes in five straight tournaments. He skipped the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last year to rest after winning the John Deere (a veteran move if I ever saw one), so it will be his first stop in Akron for this tournament.


Super Sleeper

Collins: Brendon Todd
Yes, I love the guy because he's threatened to put me on the bag as his caddie since he struggles to have fun on the course in crunch time on occasion. Judging by how he's played lately, I better keep writing good for ESPN (yes, that grammatical error was a joke). Todd is on a streak that should get him on the Ryder Cup team. His motto this week should be, "Don't think, just play."

Evans: Tiger Woods
The 14-time major champion took his eighth victory last year at Firestone by a 7-shot margin over Bradley and Henrik Stenson. It was Woods' fifth win in 2013. But since that week that included a second-round 61, Tiger has had only one more top-10, a second at the 2013 Barclays, in nine official tour starts and has struggled mightily with a back injury and inconsistent play.

Harig: Patrick Reed
He has done little since capturing the last WGC event, the Cadillac Championship. But Reed holds the 10th spot in the Ryder Cup points standings, and a big week would vault him to an automatic position.

Maguire: Miguel Angel Jimenez
A Ryder Cup spot might be a tiny stretch, but a strong showing this week at Firestone -- along with a high finish next week at the PGA Championship -- just might lock up a spot on the European squad for the 50-year-old Jimenez.


Winner

Collins: Adam Scott
This is only event No. 12 for the No. 1 golfer in the world! The year started in October ... last year!! That's 37 events down, seven to go, of which he'll probably play six. Why will he win this event? Because he's probably the "freshest" golfer on tour who could've played as many events as he wanted.

Evans: Rory McIlroy
Tiger might own Firestone with his eight wins, but McIlroy, coming off his victory in the Open Championship, is probably the hottest golfer on the planet. And in this 72-hole, no-cut event, it's hard to imagine a player in the field who can beat him this week.

Harig: Adam Scott
Despite just a single victory this year, Scott continues to play well, putting himself in position often. He was there again at the Open, and now he's got a threat for No. 1 in McIlroy. Scott won at Firestone three years ago.

Maguire: Jim Furyk
He gave away a Firestone win a couple of years back to Bradley, and he let Clark slip in and grab the RBC Canadian Open title last week. Furyk likely has had enough of the "he can't close" talk, so expect him to get that moniker off his back this week in Akron.

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