The first round of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational usually sees a bit of a cavalry charge for the lead and I’m sure it will be no different when the 70 odd man field takes to Firestone for the first time in this tournament.
With so many big names on show in the tournament we are almost guaranteed some excellent golf right from the beginning as the stars not only look to get themselves into a nice position this week but find some form for next week too.
First Round Leader
As usual on the opening round of a big tournament we have a number of markets to go at with the first round leader being a popular one. The field is split into two groups of tee times this year but there does not appear to be a huge difference in the weather with the exception of a possible storm in the afternoon.
I’m not going to attack the market this week for a couple of reasons. Firstly the field is so good there is usually a condensed nature to the top of the leaderboard after one round here and secondly I’d like to see how the course is playing before investing more of my hard earned. Given that there has been rain around though the greens may scuff up a little throughout the day so those playing the market may well be wise to take a morning starter.
Thursday 2 Balls
The beauty of this tournament is that there is a reduced field in it which means that the field can go out in two balls right from the start rather than the threes that we usually see for the first couple of days in a tournament. All eyes will be on the Tiger Woods and Jason Day pairing at 15.20 BST in the morning groups on the course while Dustin Johnson and Francesco Molinari must be the pick of the later starters at 19.10 BST. I have my eye on a couple of other pairings though.
Sergio Garcia vs Charl Schwartzel
Match tees off at 15.50 BST
Two Masters champions are the last pairing to tee off in the morning wave of starters when the 2017 winner Sergio Garcia goes out alongside the 2011 champion Charl Schwartzel in one of the better groups out onto the golf course.
You could be forgiven for wondering what on earth has happened to Sergio Garcia’s form. One good week in Paris aside he has been poor by his standards for much of the year and in the truly big events, the ones you would think he plays for now given all he has achieved in the game, he’s been even worse. You could argue that Schwartzel has been no better in recent times but he arrives here with a top 10 last week and generally he has an acceptable record at Firestone. I’ve got to think he’s value to beat a Garcia who looks well out of nick to me.
Si-Woo Kim vs Kevin Kisner
Match tees off at 19.20 BST
One of the later starters out onto the course sees the former Players champion Si-Woo Kim up alongside a man who should have won that tournament and who may feel he should be The Open champion in Kevin Kisner.
It is fair to say you never truly know what you are going to get from the Asian. On a good day he is very good but when things aren’t in tune he can be pretty awful too. That is not the case for Kisner. He is solid as a rock all the time. He plots his way around the course keeping the bogeys off the card and putting a decent number of birdies onto it. He looked to be hitting the ball brilliantly at Carnoustie and assuming he hasn’t lost his swing since then, and I doubt he will have, I’m expecting him to come through this two ball with the lowest score.
Back C.Schwartzel to beat S.Garcia for a 4/10 stake at 2.40 with 888sport
Back K.Kisner to beat S-W.Kim for a 4/10 stake at 1.83 with Betfair
Back him here: