06/27/2016

It’s Bridgestone Invitational week and we’re about to embark on the craziest period of the 2016 PGA Tour schedule. With July seeing two majors in 3 weeks span and an Olympic games for the first time in over 100 years, this is the time of season in which most of the best players have been working to peak their games.

The players who play this game for a living (and a legacy), knew going into 2016, that if they can get their golf games to be running on all cylinders coming into this stretch, it will reap benefits for years to come.

One month of great golf in January wins a player the Sony Open and the Career Builder Challenge (or whatever it’s called). One month of great golf in July wins a player potentially two major championships, a WGC, and a gold medal. This is undoubtedly the time of year where the top players in the world want to have their A-games in tact.

Teeing it up with one another this week in Akron should help spike those creative juices that are going to be flowing heavy for the next 30-45 days.

So let’s take a look at the Bridgestone Invitational and Firestone.

For a moment though, enjoy Tiger.


Full Field

Click here to check out the entire 2016 WGC-Bridgestone field.


Last 5 Champs

2015: Shane Lowry

2014: Rory McIlroy

2013: Tiger Woods

2012: Keegan Bradley

2011: Adam Scott

Lowry’s finish last year was awesome. His play coming down the stretch won over a lot of fans, including this “Tiger-esque” play on the 10th:


Course

firestone

Firestone Country Club, Akron, Ohio

The Firestone South Course is one of the monsters in all of golf. Its only a par-70, but its an absolute goliath. Measuring at 7,400+ yards and featuring lush, green fairways, penal rough and giant trees, this is one of the courses that separates the boys from the men, the touring professionals from the amateur hacks.

Big, long par-4 after big, long par-4, this course can be a grueling test for the players who fit into either one of these molds:

  • Long, but crooked
  • Short and impatient

This course will continue to wear on nerves and wane at patience.

With only two par-5s, players with deadly par-4 scoring will continue to find themselves earning an edge. Long is definitely an advantage, for sure.

Tour the course here on PGATour.com


Two from the Fairway (Contenders)

Brooks Koepka

brooks koepka

Last year heading into the Bridgestone, I wrote the following when I picked Brooks to play well.

“He’s never played the event, but I think that narrative is going to overplayed throughout the week. As the weeks go on and Koepka’s 67s continue to pile, he’ll be toward the top of the leaderboard with the announcers saying, “he’s a rookie here,” and “his first time playing Firestone” throughout play.

Brooks is carbon cut for this golf course.”

He went on to post a T6.

With his form lately (T2, T2, T13 in his last three), Brooks is a great pick for this venue. He’s making his push for a Ryder Cup team this fall and like I said, Koepka is a fit for this course.

Form and venue, he checks both boxes. I’ve got Brooks this week.

Justin Thomas

Justin thomas

Must be the week of the young Americans. Brooks, now Justin.

But with the length in his arsenal, I think Thomas tees it up in a big way with the big boys at his first WGC-Bridgestone. Last year was Brooks first time around Firestone and he made it happen. I think Thomas can do the same.

His last two starts, including the U.S. Open, have been good starts for Thomas and his stretch of off weeks before then should have him ready to go for the start of a big-time for his career. Thomas is at the launching point. He’s won his first event, has been in contention on national TV a few times, and has entered PGA Tour sub-stardom (as “Jordan Spieth’s good little buddy”). Big-time play against the top-ranked players will go a long ways for Thomas this week.

At 34 in the OWGR, Thomas’ play is completely on his flat stick. I know it’s true of most players, but his stats over the last stretch have been about as volatile as any, gaining multiple strokes one week, and losing multiple strokes the next.

I have a hunch, this week will be one of those “gaining” weeks and I’ll be there to ride it with him.

One From the Rough (Sleeper)

Smylie Kaufman

smylie kaufman

He’s become famous because he’s friends with the top young PGA Tour players. But for those who don’t follow the game (and ask, who the hell is Smylie?), Smylie can play. And I like Smylie this weekend at the Bridgestone.

Last week, he pulled a “Matt Kuchar top-10,” cashing a nice pay check at the Quicken Loans without many taking note. But with two top-25s in his past 3 starts, Kaufman’s game is not in bad form. A 76-77 week at the U.S. Open might indicate otherwise, but he’s 18th in the FedEx Cup and if you’re looking for a player with a good fitting game that many people will be looking away from, Smylie’s your guy.

Smylie is one of those players with a complete golf game, gaining strokes on the field in every aspect of the game. You’d never think this, but Smylie is also a top-30 guy in distance on the PGA Tour with enough length to be relevant at Firestone.

His brother’s name is Luckie. That’s an unrelated factor, but I thought it was interesting. I’ve got Kaufman as my sleeper.


2016 Bridgestone Draft Kings Value Picks

….from the Sports Monte:

sports monte

The WGC Bridgestone is an event that will test all aspects of players’ games, and as such, you should not only target well-rounded players who have a good mix of power and ball striking, but also veteran players who have played this event before. If that all weren’t enough, the back nine at Firestone C.C. is more difficult than the front, so leaders on Sunday will have to be able to save par and make clutch shots when it matters most. I like players who have Major Championship wins under their belts.

In terms of DFS targets this week, I generally am looking for longer hitters and solid ball strikers (though you’ll see there is some value in some control players as well). I don’t mind guys that aren’t great putters, as players who tend to win this event do so from tee to green more so than from the green. That said, it’s a WGC event, and the best recipe for success is to take the top ranked players in the world and let them do what they do best!

Keep this in mind: with only 60 players in the tournament and no cut, it’s critical to nail the winner, no matter what his ownership percentage might be.

5. David Lingmerth ($7,600) – For the most part, I am looking for longer hitters for my DFS team, but Lingmerth has a way of making up strokes on longer courses, and played well (T6) in his debut at Firestone last year. He’s coming into this week having made four straight cuts, including three top 30 finishes. He’s 16th on tour in driving accuracy, 43rd in birdie or better percentage, and 38th in SG: from the tee. His price is a great value and will give you flexibility at the top of your lineup, and Lingmerth figures to be underowned since he doesn’t hit the ball as far as most other players priced at his salary this week.

4. Branden Grace ($9,700) – Grace has improved each of the last three years at this event, culminating in a 17th place finish in 2015. Grace isn’t the longest hitter on tour, but he makes up a lot of strokes everywhere else. He’s 30th in GIR, 18th in SG: total, and 11th on tour in scoring average. He’s finished inside the top 10 in three of his last four events, including a win at the RBC Heritage. Grace fits the mold of the veteran player who, while never having won a major, has been in contention enough to know how to play on Sunday for another solid finish.

3. Jason Dufner ($8,500) – Of all the major championship winners in the field this week, Dufner might be the most overlooked, thus making him a perfect candidate for a DFS dark horse. He isn’t a long hitter, but he still ranks 21st in SG: tee to green and 15th in SG: approach. He’s one of the best ball strikers on tour, and his biggest weakness, his putting, isn’t necessarily going to hold him back this week because it’s not an event that demands great putting stats to win. Dufner ranks inside the top 20 in birdie or better percentage, birdie average, and scoring average. Veteran DFS players look for guys who take more chances and risk bogey to make some birdies, which is exactly what Dufner does. Top ten finishes in two of three tries at this event.

2. Rickie Fowler ($9,000) – Fowler is one of two players in the field this week who had back to back top ten finishes at Firestone (the other is Justin Rose, who has a higher price and will have a higher ownership percentage). Rickie hasn’t played well as of late, but he showed signs last week that lead me to believe his game is coming around. Despite his poor play of late, he still ranks inside the top 35 in driving distance, SG: tee to green, SG: approach and birdie or better percentage.

1. Bubba Watson ($10,100) – Bubba had a strong finish here last year, but before that he never had much success at Firestone. He obviously has the length, but his other stats are often overlooked. Bubba is top 40 on tour in SG: tee to green, SG: approach, birdie or better percentage, and GIR. Like Fowler, Bubba has been in a slump, but he’s a two-time major champion and has every shot in the bag to make a run down the stretch or hold someone off on the back nine on Sunday.

Ryan Rauch is the owner and lead writer for Sports Monte, a fantasy sports website that provides proven research for season-long and DFS games. He has played golf his whole life and lives and works out of Columbus, Ohio. For more information, follow @SportsMonte on Twitter.