Firestone Country Club likely won't give players in this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational field a preview of the course conditions they'll see next week at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course, but if there's one thing the two courses have in common, it's length.
At 7,400 yards, Firestone, the longest par 70 layout on the PGA Tour, will give players an idea of what they'll need to do if they want to succeed at the PGA Championship, and that's have success with the driver.
If there's one player who doesn't mind pulling the big stick as often as possible, it's Bubba Watson. Asked after posting 4-under 66 on Thursday how many times he hit driver, Watson said, "A lot. 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 14, 16, 17, 18."
Needless to say, Firestone is a course that's right in his wheelhouse. It's a grip it and rip layout, especially this year with the lack of rough due to the severe drought in Ohio. Through one round Watson's making the most of the prime conditions, after he opened with five birdies and an eagle. He currently sits just three shots off Jim Furyk's lead.
If there's one thing Watson can embrace, it's a long course. Less than two weeks ago at the British Open, he was forced to shelve "Bubba Golf" for a more conventional approach at Royal Lytham and St Annes. He won't have to worry about playing conservative this week. The same could probably be said for the Ocean Course, a 7,676-yard behemoth that could also play to his length off the tee.
The good news for Watson is he'll have a chance all week at Firestone to work on his driver and long irons in preparation for the PGA. For a guy who enjoys pulling the flashy pink driver whenever possible, that's never a bad thing.