One of the good things about the WGC Bridgestone Invitational is that because the field is a restricted one the players go out in pairs for all four rounds rather than in three balls for the opening two rounds as they would in a normal strokeplay event.
With that in mind this is a good chance to get stuck into the two ball markets for the opening round and seek out where the value is on what is a course where players either play well or they don’t, something else which should assist with the value.
Although the field is reduced the players go out in two sessions with the majority of the better players out late on Thursday for TV coverage purposes. There are some excellent pairings for the opening round with Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson, the only major champions in 2015 so far together on the first day.
Other appealing groups include Jason Day and Rickie Fowler while the two bombers Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson are also out together in the earlier session. In the later session Justin Rose partners Phil Mickelson while Henrik Stenson goes out alongside Jim Furyk. Lee Westwood and Billy Horschel is another appealing pairing.
There are three groups I like for a bet on the opening day of the tournament and I’ll be backing three Americans who I think can see off their playing partners.
The first bet goes off at 14.55 BST and involves Ryan Palmer and Francesco Molinari. Palmer is the narrow favourite in this match and I think he should be a little shorter than he is. He hasn’t played here for a few years but the last time he did play here he was second in 2010 so that in itself says he can play this golf course. He’s a much better player now too so I expect him to put up a bold showing this week.
I’m not so convinced the Italian will. In fairness to him he’s played well on the PGA Tour this season but this course would appear to be too long for him and when you look at his record here that would seem to be the case even more. He’s been outside the top 30 in four of the last five runnings of this event and has only broken par in the first round once in the five times he’s played the tournament.
I do think length is a key factor this week and Palmer has that in his locker and his short game has Molinari covered so this looks like a good way to begin the day.
My next bet tees off at 18.45 BST and sees the Finnish player Mikko Ilonen up against Ben Martin. Ilonen has played in this tournament in the last two years and has shot a cumulative 27 over par for the eight rounds he has played and has never shot better than 72 here so this course doesn’t set up well for him. His form going into this tournament has been very weak too which doesn’t help him.
Ben Martin’s form hasn’t been fantastic but he does start big tournaments well. He posted a 68 in the opening round of the Players Championship and a 67 in the first round in the US Open. In fact he was going ok in that event until he totally derailed on the Saturday. This is his first try around Firestone but he is straight off the tee and his short game is good enough that I expect him to beat an Ilonen who clearly doesn’t get on well here.
The final bet goes off at 19.15 BST and is more of a long shot but I think the price justifies a bet. It is on Zach Johnson to beat Jordan Spieth. Spieth never broke par in any of the four rounds he played around here last season and he didn’t sound overly confident when speaking on Wednesday so with no length advantage he looks very short here.
Zach Johnson has a couple of top 10s around here in the last four years and continues to defy the big hitters on the bigger courses. He won The Open last month on a course suited to the longer hitters and that shows us both that he’s in good form and that his iron play is dialled in. He putted much better in Scotland too off the back of a good putting week in the John Deere and if that putter lives up to its usual standard Zach has plenty more low rounds in him. At the prices I’ll take the chance he churns one out here.
Back R.Palmer to beat F.Molinari for a 4/10 stake at 2.05 with Boylesports
Back B.Martin to beat M.Ilonen for a 4/10 stake at 1.73 with Stan James
Back Z.Johnson to beat J.Spieth for a 3/10 stake at 3.25 with Paddy Power
Blog golf YTD: -8.59pts