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World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational

Tournament Feature

It’s not a Major, but the WGC Bridgestone certainly draws like one every year in Akron, Ohio, where its prize money counts as official earnings on both the PGA and European Tours.

It’s also as good a place as any for Tiger Woods, down to No. 10 in the world, to snap out of his season-long slump. Woods is the tournament’s defending champion, and has won the title here a staggering eight times in the tournament’s 15-year history.

It will be Woods’ first action since finishing 69th at the Open Championship in Hoylake. Also back for the first time since the third Major is Rory McIlroy, who won the title, his third Major.

With a smaller field eligible, the first rounds will be in pairs, not trios, with American Matt Every and South Africa’s Branden Grace kicking things off on the front nine at 9:10 a.m. on the Firestone Country Club South Course Thusrday, while American Patrick Reed and Australian John Senden start at the same time on the back nine.

RBC Canadian Open champion Tim Clark is up at 9:20 a.m., paired with Angel Cabrera on the front nine.

The tournament has done its best of matching Americans with foreign players early on in an impressive display of camaraderie, and as an appreciation of fans who rarely get to see international players, except on television.

At 10:10 a.m., FedExCup leader Jimmy Walker tees off with the UK’s Lee Westwood on the front nine, while the US’ Jordan Spieth is matched with France’s Victor Dubuisson on the back. McIlroy draws American Matt Kuchar.

At 10:30 a.m., old pros Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson tee off together,  while Masters champion Bubba Watson draws No. 1 Adam Scott; and Woods is paired with US Open winner Martin Kaymer.

08/01/14, Friday

Fresh off a tie for fifth at The Open Championship, Australia’s Marc Leishman finds himself at the top of the leaderboard after one round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational thanks to his 6-under 64 on Thursday.

Leishman leads a Top 10 that includes some of the biggest names in the sport, while he himself, the 2009 PGA Rookie of the Year, has just one PGA title to his credit so far.

Leishman was 3-under on both the front and back nines, exchanging four birdies for one bogey on both sets to lead American Ryan Moore, South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel and England’s Justin Rose by one stroke each.

Rose has just one win on the year, the Quicken Loans National back in late January. The 2013 US Open champion played a bogey-free round on Thursday.

Americans Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler, along with Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Canada’s Graham DeLaet are tied for fifth at 3-under.

Five more players are tied for ninth, including a man who’s no stranger to the top of the leaderboard in Akron – Tiger Woods.

Woods’ 2-under 68 was his best score since coming back from surgery earlier this year. 

The 8-time Bridgestone champion was +1 through four holes, then notched three birdies in a four-hole stretch before double bogeying No. 9 to hit the turn at even par. He added birdies on No. 10 and 16.

He’s tied with Americans Brandt Snedeker and Keegan Bradley, Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Wales’ Jamie Donaldson.

The Open Championship winner Rory McIlroy, in action for the first time since then, is tied for 14th at 1-under. 

Also in that group are Miguel Jimenez, Jimmy Walker, Jim Furyk, No. 1 Adam Scott, and Masters winner Bubba Watson.

Last year’s PGA Rookie of the Year Jordan Spieth is tied for 35th after firing a 1-under, as did Phil Mickelson and Henrik Staenson.

US Open champion Martin Kaymer had one of the worst rounds of the day, a 7-over 77 that did not include a single birdie as he sits 74th out of 76 players.

08/02/14, Saturday

Only two men had ever recorded a 61 at the WGC-Bridgestone in Akron, Ohio, before Sergio Garcia equaled the feat on Friday.

Those two men – Jose Maria Olazabal and Tiger Woods (who did it twice) have something in common about their 61s – they used them to run away and win the tournament.

Garcia hopes to do the same, but on a day of low scores, his 61 only got him into the lead, there are no guarantees beyond that.

He was 9-under on the day and is 11-under for the tournament, giving him a 3-stroke lead over 2013 US Open winner Justin Rose.

Garcia’s 27 on the back nine set a new course record as he birdied all but the 11th hole over the second half of the course, missing a 15-foot putt there.

He as just 1-under at the turn before catching fire, birdying his last seven holes in a row.

Rose followed up his Day One 65 with a 3-under 67 to reach 8-under. He made just one bogey on the day.

Day One leader Marc Leishman followed up with a 69 to sit third, tied there with The Open Championship winner Rory McIlroy, who surged up the leader board with a 6-under 64, the second-best round of the day behind Garcia.

McIlroy shot 32s on both sides of the course. If he wins the tournament and current No. 1 Adam Scott does not finish in the Top 10, McIlroy would take over the top ranking next week.

Rounding out the top five are American Rickie Fowler and South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel, both of whom are at 6-under.

Fowler shot a 67 for the second straight day.

The aforementioned Scott is currently tied for 12th, eight strokes back at 3-under, but he’s in good company, alongside the likes of Jim Furyk, Thomas Bjorn, Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar.

Defending champion  Woods fell from ninth to 25th after carding a 1-over 71 on Friday. Woods was 1-under through 10 before bogeying 11 and 13.

He’s tied at 1-over with Masters champion Bubba Watson and FedExCup leader Jimmy Walker.

Jordan Spieth bounced back to shoot a even-par 70, moving up to 35th, while Phil Mickelson struggled for a second straight day with a 3-over 73 to fall to a tie for 53rd at 4-over.

US Open champion Martin Kaymer bounced back from his horrific 7-over 77 on Thursday to fire a 68 on Friday.

Garcia, Rose and Leishman will combine to tee off at 9 a.m. on Hole No. 1 on Saturday in Round 3.

08/03/14, Sunday

There are presently two types of golfers in the world.

Rory McIlroy and everybody else. In his first action since winning the Open Championship, McIlroy shot his second straight 66 on Sunday to slip past Sergio Garcia and win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational by two strokes with a 15-under 265.

With the victory, and the fact that Adam Scott did not finish in the Top 5, McIlroy is back to the No. 1 spot in the world golf rankings.

McIlroy made his move early, birdying the first three holes and four of the first five. He was 3-under at the turn and added a birdie on No. 11.

Playing with  a 3-stroke lead to start the day, Garcia lost it on the third hole when he committed a bogey while McIlroy was recording his third straight birdie.

McIlroy made it a two-stroke lead when he birdied No. 5, but Garcia got back within one stroke when he birdied No. 9 after McIlroy had bogeyed No. 8.

McIlroy got one stroke back when he birdied No. 11, and all but sealed the win as Garcia bogeyed No. 15.

Australia’s Marc Leishman, the Day One leader, wound up third at 12-under with a 67 on Sunday. His day was doomed when he hit into the rough on No. 14 and took a bogey.

The three above were the only men to finish more than 10 strokes under par. Charl Schwartzel, Patrick Reed, Keegan Bradley and Justin Rose finished tied for fourth at 9-under.

The eye-opener from outside the Top 10 came from Phil Mickelson, who fired a final-round 62 to jump up to a tie for 15th. Mickelson had been battling strep throat all weekend and was 3-over entering the day.

He had 10 birdies, including three in a row on 15-17 to end up tied with Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn.

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