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WGC-Bridgestone showcases PGA chances

Improvement in Canada suggests defending champion Dustin Johnson could do well (Photo: Getty Images)
Defending champion and World Number One Dustin Johnson will be out to end his run of mediocre form when the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational gets underway late Thursday on the South Course at Firestone Country Club in Ohio.

Johnson came from three shots off the 54-hole lead of Jason Day and Scott Piercy to win by one over Piercy last year and after several indifferent efforts since his early season hot-streak, the former US Open champion was much better last week in Canada where he tied for 8th.

Australians do enjoy a relatively good record at this event with Adam Scott and Craig Parry having won this specific event or its equivalent, Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby finishing runner-up and Jason Day 3rd on one occasion.

Six Australians will get their opportunity this week, namely Scott, Day, Marc Leishman, Scott Hend, Rod Pampling and Sam Brazel all teeing it up in the US$9.75 million event.   

Scott won this title in 2011 and, although he has hardly been convincing of late, he has not played badly. His win six years ago was his first with Steve Williams on the bag and ahead of next week's PGA Championship, the now 37-year-old will be keen to find the level of form he needs to contend for a second major championship title. 

While Day's game is not at that level it was 12 months ago when he finished third behind Johnson, a significant turnaround is not beyond the Queenslander.

Leishman has been Australia’s best performer this year against the game's very best and he does boast a 3rd place finish in this event in 2014. The 33-year-old's chance of being the leading Australian for his sixth event in a row is very good.    

Jordan Spieth has been 10th and 3rd in his last two starts at Firestone and he arrives as the newly crowned Open champion chasing a third PGA Tour win in a row.

Those credentials provide Spieth with the perfect background to contend and possibly win his first WGC title.

Rory McIlroy won over Firestone's South Course in 2014 and does own three other top-10s in six starts at the event. It will also be the Northern Irishman's first appearance without the services of J.P. Fitzgerald as his caddie following their split last week after a nine-year working relationship.

The impact on McIlroy’s ongoing performance should not be too great given his immense ability but it begs the question as to whether the he has been over or underachieving with Fitzgerald on the bag.

One look at his record and their success as a pair tells the story of a very successful partnership with four majors and two WGC titles in addition to reaching many other milestones.

In general, Sergio Garcia has never really contended in this event other than when runner-up to McIlroy in 2014 but he is in perhaps the greatest form and spirits of his career and a good week is certainly on the cards.

Rickie Fowler has several good finishes in this event including when runner-up to Adam Scott in 2011. The American is playing very well in recent months with more than half of his last 13 finishes in the top-10 and it is not hard to see him winning this week.

While the WGC-Bridgestone is a significant event in world golf in its own terms, given its huge purse and high quality field, it also offers an insight into what might happen in next week’s final major of the year, the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.




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