The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational gets under way at Firestone Country Club this week, take a look at the key themes ahead of the 20th edition of the event.
Louis Oosthuizen leads the contingent this week as the search for his first win on US soil continues. Oosthuizen is joined by Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel, Brandon Stone and Dimension Data Pro-Am winner Jaco Ahlers in the field.
It is fair to say that Tiger Woods enjoys playing in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The 14-time Major Champion has competed in the event 14 times since its inception in 1999 and triumphed on eight occasions. He won the first three editions of the event in 1999, 2000 and 2001, the second of which by an enormous 11 shots from runners-up Justin Leonard and Philip Price.
After different winners in the three years that followed, Woods returned to the winners’ circle in 2005 and went on to make history.
After his victory in ’05, the American triumphed in 2006 and 2007 to become the first man to win the same event for three consecutive years on two separate occasions. His tied sixth finish at The Open earned him a spot at this year’s event for the first time in four years, by moving him into the top 50 in the world.
Firestone Country Club has hosted the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on all-but-one of the 19 editions of the event to date. After Harvey Firestone commissioned the club 89 years ago for employees of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, the South Course was designed by Bert Way in 1929.
The renowned golf course designer Robert Trent Jones Sr. provided a renovation in 1960 and the course in its modern guise is best known for its history of tournament play.
The stand-out feature of the course is the 667-yard par five 16th, dubbed ‘The Monster’ by Arnold Palmer in 1960. Featuring water at the front of the small green and a creek to the right, Palmer carded a triple bogey eight during the PGA Championship that year.
European Tour Members
The European Tour will be represented by 34 of its members at the third WGC event of the year. Of the 34 members competing at Firestone Country Club, six are affiliate members with the remaining 28 fully-fledged members of the European Tour.
During the 19-year history of a Tiger Woods-dominated tournament, four have been won by European Tour Members.
There are eight members set to make their debuts at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this year; Alexander Björk, Paul Dunne, Kodai Ichihara, Haotong Li, Wade Ormsby, Shubhankar Sharma, Cameron Smith and Brandon Stone will all tee it up for the first time at the event.
Of the four WGC-Bridgestone Invitational victories by European Tour Members, Vijay Singh is the only non-Irish winner. Northern Irishman Darren Clarke, who would go on to win the 2011 Open Championship, triumphed in the 2003 edition by four shots ahead of American Jonathan Kaye.
Clarke’s compatriot Rory McIlroy was the next Irishman to get his hands on the Gary Player Cup in 2014, before Shane Lowry, of the Republic of Ireland, took home the title the following year.
The event has a rich history, with eight of the 12 different winners all being Major champions. Dustin Johnson, the 2016 winner, triumphed after being crowned US Open champion two months before, while 2012 winner Keegan Bradley won the 2011 PGA Championship.
Stewart Cink, Darren Clarke and Adam Scott are the other three single Major winners, with Cink and Clarke triumphing at The Open Championship in 2009 and 2011, respectively, while Scott donned the Green Jacket at Augusta National in 2013.
Three-time Major Champion Vijay Singh won at Firestone in 2008, while 2014 winner McIlroy needs only the Masters Tournament to complete the career grand slam.
The most successful WGC-Bridgestone Invitational is Tiger Woods, who has captured 14 Major Championships during a glittering career to date.
Credit: European Tour