Bridgestone Invitational Picks, Sleepers and Wagering Preview

by Joseph Harris
on August 2, 2017

We are only a week away from the fourth and final major of the PGA Season, the oft-overlooked PGA Championship, and just a few weeks removed from Jordan Spieth’s thrilling final five hole blow-by to capture The Open championship.  But nestled snug in between those marquee events is one that technically isn’t a “major” but is still pretty massive in its own right.  The World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational carries a nearly ten million dollar purse and will feature most of the biggest names in the sport.

The field is headlined by three of the brightest stars; defending WGC Bridgestone Invitational champ and World’s #1, Dustin Johnson, three-time major champion and recent conqueror of The Open, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy.  Spieth is the slight (at least at Top Bet and Bovada) at +800, while Dustin Johnson is currently +900.  Right along with them is another of golf’s bright young superstars, Rory McIlroy, also at +900.  From there, a lot of the usual names dot the odds listings, including winners of the two prior Major Championships, Brooks Koepka, and Sergio Garcia.

The WGC has historically been dominated by prior Major winners.  Since the tournament came to the South course in 1999, only two non-Major winners have won the WGS; Shane Lowry (2015) and Hunter Mahan (2010).  Of course, the fact that Tiger Woods ripped off eight of the titles while still in his carnivorous prime skews the numbers just a bit…

So can anyone new break through this year?  Or will it be the usual suspects atop the Vegas odds – predominantly Major winners, taking home the trophy?  Here’s a look at the current outright odds.

CURRENT WGS BRIDGESTONE INVITATIONAL ODDS

*August 1ST (Courtesy of Bovada.lv,)

  • Jordan Spieth +800
  • Dustin Johnson +900
  • Rory McIlroy +900
  • Ricky Fowler +1600
  • Brooks Koepka +1800
  • Hideki Matsuyama +1800
  • John Rahm +2200
  • Hinrich Stenson +2200
  • Justin Rose +2500
  • Adam Scott +2800
  • Jason Day +2800
  • Matt Kuchar +2800
  • Sergio Garcia +2800
  • Marc Leishman +3300
  • Paul Casey +3300
  • Branden Grace +4000
  • Daniel Berger +4000
  • Justin Thomas +4000
  • Alexander Noren +4500
  • Tommy Fleetwood +4500

Other Notables:

  • Phil Mickelson +5000
  • Zach Johnson +5000
  • Charl Schwartzel +5500
  • Charlie Hoffman  +6600
  • Jason Dufner +6600
  • Bubba Watson +7500
  • Soren Kjeldsen +15000

This is a unique tournament, as the field is limited in size and only the top players are invited, so there’s no cut looming, just four days of action on a long, straight and narrow course without a ton of frills.  It could very well reward the bombers due to the length of the course but is just narrow enough to punish erratic play off the tee as well.

Let’s take a look at a few favorites, as well as a few value plays (as well as a few guys who might be nice values on the fantasy golf card).

FAVORITES WITH VALUE:

Jordan Spieth +800

It’s hard to ignore the 22-year old who just completed the third leg of the career Grand Slam in jaw-dropping fashion the last time he was on the golf course.  Sure, betting the favorite is kind of boring, and probably especially vanilla if you are playing Fantasy Golf this weekend and can only grab a few of the top five or six guys (Spieth will be a crowded selection) but sometimes going counter intuitive just to be different only puts you in last place…

This tournament famously favors Major Champs, as well as guys who can hit it a long way without going to wrong way.  He is ranked first on the tour in approaches to the green and second in greens in regulation, in addition to his almost-obvious first place ranking in both birdies and scoring average.  Add in the fact he finished third in this event last year, so has had a taste of success on the same track, and he becomes a favorite worth considering.  It isn’t like we are laying prime “Tiger vs. the Field” type odds at +800, so there is still some relative value with a guy who has already won three times on tour this season.

Dustin Johnson +900

At the risk of looking foolish, I’m going to pass on the defending WGC Champ, despite his three wins on tour already this season, his #1 World Ranking and his tour leading ‘strokes gained off the tee’ and ‘tee to green’ statistics.  He looked nice in last week’s Canadian, finishing 8th, but that proceeded three poor showings.  He went 66-66 on the final weekend last year en route to the championship, so again, the potential to rue the decision is very real, but if I can only take one of the top three on the board, I’ll take Spieth over Johnson narrowly and comfortably over Rory.

TOP CONTENDERS:

Brooks Koepka +1800

If the course favors long and accurate, how about one of the longest hitters on tour who recently broke through and won his first major?  He ranks 11th in driving distance on the tour, and of those Top 11 players, only Dustin Johnson could even reasonably be considered a better overall golfer.  It isn’t just power with Koepka, whose overall game has been fantastic in 2017.  The US Open Champion is a nice value at double the payout of the three biggest names on the board.

Jon Rahm +2200

The Spanish rookie is lighting up the Tour in his first season of action.  He has already won twice on tour, including the Dubai Duty-Free Irish Open a few weeks ago.  He has seven Top 5 finishes and another two Top 10 finishes in just 15 starts. What’s not to like about a guy at +2200 who is long off the box and seems to finish in the Top Ten every time he hits the course?  That’s right.  Nothing. And with his relative price in most fantasy leagues, he could be a nice second-tier play to push a lineup to finishing in the money.

Sergio Garcia +2800

It’s been a nice year for Sergio.  The long burdened “best player to never win a major” earned a new nickname in Augusta, “Masters’ Champion” and also landed a wife last week.  He will be bringing a post-honeymoon glow to Akron, and given the free and easy way he has been swinging the club lately, perhaps married life will suit his play well.  In addition to winning the Masters, he hasn’t missed a cut since February and aside from a poor (37th) showing at The Open, he hasn’t finished out of the Top 30 all season.  That said, I think I like the value of the hot rookie Rahm a little better than Sergio if making a trade-off in this tier of the odds/fantasy value.

SLEEPERS:

Charlie Hoffman +4500

It doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense that a 40-year old guy who has played in mainstream anonymity most of his career would be a legitimate Top 15-20 player but ignore Charlie Hoffman at your own peril.  He owns the third-longest made cut streak in 2017, currently alive at eleven straight (and obviously not in any peril this week at the no-cut GWC) and after last week’s second place finish in Canada, is third overall in 2017 for Top Ten finishes.  Will he win it all?  There’s a good chance steady Charlie won’t, but there’s also a really good chance he is in the final three or four pairings on Sunday which makes him a nice value at +4500 and a GREAT value in a fantasy lineup.

Zach Johnson +5000

Another forty-something veteran who just gets the job done event after event.  Zach has made the cut in six of his last seven events and finished fifth and fourteenth respectively in his last two starts.  A steady veteran who knows the course in Akron, there’s some value in the steady veteran Johnson.

LONGSHOTS/ “BOOM OR BUST” PLAYS:

Bubba Watson +7500

All the statistical models love Bubba Watson on this course; a big bombing driver on a track that rewards and values distance off the tee box.  However, a lot of statistical models have liked Bubba going into a lot of tournaments this Summer, and we’ve seen how well that has turned out… There’s obviously some upside on a two-time Major winner with a massive drive – especially if you put any credence into the theory that the Bridgestone is a welcome landing spot for former Major Champs.  But given his recent form, it’s hard to put too much serious stock into Bubba.

Tommy Fleetwood

Getting +4500 odds for the 15th ranked player in the World and a guy who’s already won twice on the European Tour and finished 4th at the US Open seems like a pretty nice longer-odds value.

OVERALL PICKS:

It’s boring to go chalk, but I can’t argue with anyone going with Jordan Spieth this weekend.  I’ll have him on my card.  In addition to Spieth, I like the value of Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm.  For a sleeper, I’ll go with Charlie Hoffman, though I do like the lower/middle tier value of Fleetwood and Zach Johnson on a fantasy lineup.

The 2017 WGC Bridgestone Invitational begins Thursday, August 3rd from the Firestone Country Club in Akron, OH and can be seen on The Golf Channel and CBS.
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