Aug
1
2011
Golf’s Global Elite Compete for WGC Prestige
By Will Leivenberg under WGC

Hunter Mahan will be defending at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, but will be up against one of the strongest and most competitive fields of the season.

76 players, 17 countries, three Northern-Irish major champions, and the long-awaited return of golf’s formerly most menacing figure, Tiger Woods, descend upon the Firestone Country Club in Akron, OH, for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational August 4-7th.

The South Course at Firestone, is a beast of a course, measuring 7,400 yards. The tree-lined fairways are protected by a bevy of bunkers, meaning accuracy will trump sheer power. Although the putting greens vary in elevation and undulation, they are bound by a single similarity—terrifying quickness. Putting on the greens at Firestone is like putting on a table top. Once you’ve hit the ball, you may as well start praying.

Last year’s event at Firestone was an unforgettable moment of the season. The world watched Tiger Woods wither away into his worst ever finish at a WGC event (T79). But as one star plummeted, another ascended. Hunter Mahan played four terrific rounds, posting descending scores of 71-67-66-64 to capture the prestigious victory.

Although all eyes will be on Tiger Woods as he competes in his first professional event since withdrawing from the Players Championship, the triumvirate of the Northern Irishmen will have the spotlight. Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke have captured three of the last five major championships, causing many to wonder just what’s in the water (or perhaps a different beverage) in Northern Ireland.

Bolstering the elite aura of the WGC field is a host of the world’s highest ranked players. Current World No.1 Luke Donald will be looking for his second WGC victory of 2011 after he captured the WGC-Accenture Match Play earlier in the season in a captivating match against former No.1 Martin Kaymer. Lee Westwood (ranked No.2) looks to get revenge at Firestone after a poor showing at the Open Championship two weeks ago where the Englishman missed the cut and shocked the golf world (not to mention ruined my betting pool!).

Also make sure to keep an eye on Steve Stricker, one of the game’s best putters, Phil Mickelson, golf’s wizard of wedge shots, long-hitting Dustin Johnson, and another 2011 WGC winner, Nick Watney.

Finally, there’s Tiger Woods, who’s basically made a mockery of WGC events. He’s owns 16 victories in 35 starts in his career, seven of which came at the Bridgestone Invitational. Although his performance last year entailed throwing clubs, duffing shots, screaming profanity, and a horrendous finish, if Tiger is in the field there’s that inescapable inkling of “what if?”

What if he blows away the field with a resurgence of his old, dominating game?

Unfortunately, between withdrawing after nine holes in his last competitive event, being sidelined for nearly three months due to injury, and firing his caddie (Stevie Williams), the other side of the coin begs the question of, what if he plays poorly and has a middle-of-the-pack finish?

Regardless of Woods, rarely in the world of golf do the crème de la crème of golfers compete outside of the major championships, which is why the WGC-Bridgetone Invitational will be a refreshing and thrilling golf event you won’t want to miss!

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2011 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational field and how they qualified
Allenby, Robert – No. 44 OWGR, July 25
Appleby, Stuart – 2010 JBWere Masters
Atwal, Arjun – 2010 Wyndham Championship
Baddeley, Aaron – 2011 Northern Trust Open
Bjron, Thomas – 2011 Commercialbank Qatar Masters
Bradley, Keegan – 2011 HP Byron Nelson Championship
Byrd, Jonathan – 2010 Justin Timberlake, 2011 Hyundai T of C
Casey, Paul – 2011 Volvo Golf Champions
Choi, K.J. – 2011 THE PLAYERS Championship
Cink, Stewart – 2010 Ryder Cup
Clarke, Darren – 2011 British Open
Day, Jason – No. 8 OWGR, July 25
Donald, Luke – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2011 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, 2011 BMW PGA Championship, 2011 Barclays Scottish Open
Dyson, Simon – 2011 Irish Open
Els, Ernie – 2010 South African Open Championship
Fisher, Ross – 2010 Ryder Cup
Fowler, Rickie – 2010 Ryder Cup
Frazar, Harrison – 2011 FedEx St. Jude Classic
Furyk, Jim – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2010 THE TOUR Championship
Garcia, Sergio – No. 48 OWGR, July 25
Glover, Lucas – 2011 Wells Fargo Championship
Goosen, Retief – No. 20 OWGR, July 25
Green, Richard – 2010 Portugal Masters
Haas, Bill – No. 47 OWGR, July 25
Hansen, Anders – No. 43 OWGR, July 25
Hanson, Peter – 2010 Ryder Cup
Harrington, Padraig – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2010 Iskandor Johor Open (designated)
Hoffman, Charley – 2010 Deutsche Bank Championship
Ikeda, Yuta – 2010 Bridgestone Open (designated), 2010 Dunlop Phoenix
Ishikawa, Ryo – No. 49 OWGR, July 25
Jacobson, Fredrik – 2011 Travelers Championship
Jimenez, Miguel A. – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2010 Omega European Masters
Johnson, Dustin – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2010 BMW Championship
Johnson, Zach – 2010 Ryder Cup
Karlsson, Robert – 2010 Dubai World Championship
Kaymer, Martin – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2010 PGA Championship, 2010 KLM Open, 2010 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, 2011 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship
Kim, Kyung Tae – No. 23 OWGR, July 25
Kuchar, Matt – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2010 The Barclays
Laird, Martin – 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational
Larrazabal, Pablo – 2011 BMW International Open
Levet, Thomas – 2011 Alstom Open de France
Mahan, Hunter – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2010 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational
Manassero, Matteo – 2011 Maybank Malaysian Open
McDowell, Graeme – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2010 Andalucia Masters
McIlroy, Rory – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2011 U.S. Open
Mickelson, Phil – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2011 Shell Houston Open
Molinari, Edoardo – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2010 Johnnie Walker Championship
Molinari, Francesco – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2010 WGC-HSBC Champions
Moore, Ryan – No. 39 OWGR, July 25
Noren, Alex – 2011 SAAB Wales Open
Ogilvy, Geoff – No. 38 OWGR, July 25
O’Hair, Sean – 2011 RBC Canadian Open
Oosthuizen, Louis – No. 34OWGR, July 25
Otto, Hennie – 2011 Dimension Data Pro-Am (designated)
Overton, Jeff – 2010 Ryder Cup
Park, Jae-bum – 2011 Japan Golf Tour Championship (designated)
Points, D.A. – 2011 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Poulter, Ian – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2010 UBS Hong Kong Open, 2011 Volvo World Match Play Championship
Quiros, Alvaro – 2011 Omega Dubai Desert Classic
Rose, Justin – No. 33 OWGR, July 25
Sabbatini, Rory – 2011 Honda Classic
Schwartzel, Charl – 2011 Masters
Scott, Adam – 2010 Barclays Singapore Open
Slocum, Heath – 2010 McGladrey Classic
Snedeker, Brandt – 2011 The Heritage
Stallings, Scott – 2011 Greenbrier Classic
Steele, Brendan – 2011 Valero Texas Open
Stricker, Steve – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2011 the Memorial Tournament, 2011 John Deere classic
Toms, David – 2011 Crowne Plaza Invitational
Van Pelt, Bo – No. 35 OWGR, July 25
Vegas, Jhonattan – 2011 Bob Hope Classic
Watney, Nick – 2011 WGC-Cadillac Championship, 2011 AT&T National
Watson, Bubba – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2011 Farmers Insurance Open, 2011 Zurich Classic
Westwood, Lee – 2010 Ryder Cup, 2010 Nedbank Golf Challenge, 2011 Ballantine’s Championship
Wilson, Mark – 2011 Sony Open in Hawaii, 2011 Waste Management Phoenix Open
Woodland, Gary – 2011 Transitions Championship
Woods, Tiger – 2010 Ryder Cup
Yang, YE – No. 36 OWGR, July 25