Most of the big names are here. Three of the top five golfers in the world, No. 1 Jason Day, No. 2. Jordan Spieth No. 3 Dustin Johnson, along with No. 6 and 7 Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler lead a loaded American field at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron at the Firestone Country Club (South) this week.
The field consists of 62 players from the ranks of the Top 50 players in the World Golf Rankings along with qualifiers from other events. Seven of the top 10 and 41 of the top 50 in the WGC rankings will be here.
Missing of course is Tiger Woods, who by all appearances plans on resuming his pro golf career but probably not in 2016.
Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson, World No . 3 and No. 4 will be in Paris at the Open de France.
Other notables at Akron this week are Phil Mickelson, who had the chance of meeting a golf-attired J.R. Smith of the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavs on Wednesday. Along with Mickleson, vets Jim Furyk and Davis Love III will compete this week, as will Billy Hurley III coming off his victory at Congressional last week.
Dustin Johnson returns to competition after his remarkable win at the U.S. Open and will be paired with two former U.S. Open champs, Spieth and Justin Rose for what is probably the most skilled grouping for Thursday and Friday.
Johnson is the last American to win a WGC-event, taking first place at the 2015 WGC-Cadilac Championship. However, the last five WGC events have been won by international players.
With an array of contenders naturally all eyes will be on two men with the names Spieth and Day.
Although not having won here in the past, Jordan Spieth has played well at the WGC-Bridgestone finishing tied for tenth in 2015.
“Any time you’re in a World Golf Championship, it’s a big event,” Spieth said this week prior to this week’s event.
“Smaller field this year, and some of the guys are over in France, but still, it’s such a challenging golf course, one that looks like it’s going to firm up, which I liked last year. I thought it was pretty cool when the balls would bounce in the fairway, the fairways got even smaller.”
Bounce seems to be the keyword this week in terms of course conditions at Firestone South.
“If it dries out, it’s going to be difficult because the ball is going to be bouncing,” Jason Day said at a media session Tuesday.
“They’re not going to be stopping pretty much dead-on where it’s landing because of the dryness of the ground. And if they start going to the rough, then you’re going to catch a little bit more fliers because it’s starting to dry out the grass and the rough and the greens are going to be firmer, it’s going to be harder. The greens are pretty narrow. They’re pretty small. That said, it’s going to be hard to get greens, then you’ve got to try to get up-and-down. And then once they get to tournament speed, which is 13, maybe a little bit over 13, with the pitch on these greens it’s going to be tough to get up-and-down.”
Day will be looking for his fourth victory of 2016 and Spieth his third.
Both players are acumen with the putter. Jason Day owns the best putting average on the Tour (1.145) and Spieth leads the Tour in Birdie average (4.63).
For both, a win this week could be a stepping stone to a bigger 2016 than planned. The expectations for Spieth are what you would rightfully expect for the top ranked American player in the world. But two wins at minor tournaments doesn’t feed the golf mania machine, a World Golf Championship would do that.
“It feels like a good year,” Spieth said. “It doesn’t feel like a great year yet.”