Tiger Woods, still smarting from another weekend swoon at a major, and Phil Mickelson, fresh from sharing the fruits of his first British Open win with Callaway staffers, lead a field of 72 star players at this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the final tune-up before next week’s PGA Championship.
The two legends head to Firestone Country Club perhaps with different goals for the tourney. Woods, with four victories this season but none at the majors, would like to get back to winning on a track he owned, to the tune of seven Ws through 2009. Meanwhile, Mickelson, as is his his wont, probably considers his start in Akron, Ohio, a practice round for the real deal, the season’s final major at Oak Hill.
Looking to better last year’s T8 close, Woods will have to contend with a rejuvenated Mickelson as well as Lefty’s protege, Keegan Bradley, who hopes to defend his 2012 Bridgestone title.
Other competitors among the A-listers this week include Masters champ Adam Scott, who seeks to rekindle the magic of the greatest win of Steve Williams' career when his boss went wire-to-wire at Firestone in 2011; Lee Westwood, who will compete for the first time since coughing up the third-round lead at the Open Championship; Dustin Johnson, who wants to get past that late triple-bogey that cost him last week’s Canadian Open; and Rory McIlroy, who may be able to get back in the swing since there’s no cut this week.
And then there’s Brandt Snedeker, who enters the tournament on the strength of his second PGA Tour win of the season, the Canadian Open, which rocketed him squarely back into the race for player of the year.
Indeed, Snedeker’s timely victory at Glen Abbey provides the world’s seventh-ranked player with plenty of momentum heading into the stretch drive of the 2013 season as he seeks to repeat as FedEx Cup champion.
“Feels like two completely different years for me,” Snedeker, who began the year with a W and three additional top-three finishes in his first five events, told reporters Sunday after completing a three-shot win over a quartet of players, including DJ. “First part of the year, I couldn't do anything wrong. I was playing fantastic, and I got injured. I feel like I've been fighting to get myself back to the way I was at the beginning of the year.”
A rib injury suffered during his Pebble Beach win put the six-time tour winner on the DL for a month, but his game was not up to par for quite a bit longer as he missed two cuts before compiling a sixth-place finish at the Masters and coming in eighth at The Players Championship. After two more MCs, Snedeker notched a T17 at the U.S. Open and a T11 at the British Open before emerging victorious in Ontario.
“I'm not saying I'm there,” Snedeker said, sounding a warning to Woods, Mickelson, et al, “but I'm close to the way I was playing in the beginning of the year.”
Snedeker’s performance, by the way, illustrated why he is one of the best navigators of the flat stick in the game. He needed just 105 putts in Canada, which, according to PGATour.com’s Brian Wacker, was second best among the contenders last week. Wacker also noted that Snedeker, who is 10th overall, ranked ninth last week in the strokes gained-putting category.