The WGC Bridgestone tournament is one of the biggest on the golf calendar outside of the majors and extra sparkle has been added to proceedings after Tiger Woods confirmed that he would begin his comeback from injury at the Invitational.
Woods couldn’t have picked a better place to return, with the American having triumphed an amazing seven times at the Firestone Country Club, although it will be interesting to see what sort of shape the 35-year-old is in after a 12-week absence.
There is sure to be plenty of money for the Tiger, who is a best price 20/1 (Stan James) and tees off with Open Championship winner Darren Clarke, a pairing which is sure to be avidly followed by spectators. The northern Irishman is another former winner, having triumphed here in 2003, and the bookies are offering 100/1 (Paddy Power – £100 free betting) he does it again.
“Tiger has been the best player in the world for a very long time. He has been the guy certainly over my career that has set the benchmark for all the rest of us” said Clarke.
“It is fantastic for all of world golf just to see Tiger Woods back playing again. I’m sure he will be trying to get himself back up to where he has been before and personally I don’t doubt he’ll do that”.
Unsurprisingly, Rory McIlroy is the favourite to win the Bridgestone after demonstrating at Augusta and Congressional that he has truly come of age. It would seem that the 22-year-old is more suited to the American courses and 14/1 (bet365 – £200 free bets) is available about the US Open champion adding another big win to his 2011 portfolio.
Lee Westwood only has one more shot at winning a major in 2011 after disappointing in the Open Championship, although he will have his backers at 16/1 (Ladbrokes – £30 free betting) and will be buoyed by the victory of his horse Hoof It in the Stewards’ Cup at Glorious Goodwood.
Meanwhile, we should expect plenty of other Americans to present a challenge aside from Woods. Steve Stricker (18/1 Blue Square) will be on plenty of people’s shortlist, while Dustin Johnson actually went odds-on for the Open during the final round and the world number seven has finished in the top 20 during each of his last three European tournaments.
Phil Mickelson (22/1 Sportingbet) also produced an impressive display of golf in difficult conditions at Sandwich, while Nick Watney (25/1 Ladbrokes) has gone off the boil in the past few months although the youngster still has a bright future in the game, as does Rickie Fowler (40/1 bet365) who was one of the overseas golf players that mastered the Open course best.