For the second big event in a row, Ryder Cup buddies Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia battled it out on Sunday afternoon and for the second time in a row, McIlroy got the better of his buddy as he posted 15-under-par 265 to win the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational by two shots. The Northern Irishman began the day on Firestone South in Akron, Ohio, three shots behind in second place but after birdies in four of his first five holes, he was leading, never to trail again. After Garcia only made one birdie on Sunday, McIlroy claimed a rather easy two-shot victory to win for the eighth time on TOUR. First round leader and Aussie Marc Leishman rounded out the podium one shot behind Garcia alone in third. This is McIlroy’s first WGC title.
Garcia slept on the lead Saturday night for the 12th time in his career and for the ninth time on TOUR, he didn’t convert. McIlroy was trailing by five shots at one point on Saturday but closed with birdie-birdie after a weather delay to signal his intention for Sunday. If that did influence your opinion he went ahead and birdied four of his first five holes on Sunday to take the lead.
He never looked back.
A bogey on No. 8 offered a faint glimpse of hope but his birdie on No. 11 extinguished any thoughts of him continuing to go backwards. Sunday was his day as errant tee balls that found the trees bounced into the middle of fairways. Iron shots that were misjudged still managed to find the fringe. Putts that were left short were confidently slammed home to save pars. That sounds like what the No. 1 player in the world should do on a Sunday afternoon but a little luck never hurts either. When McIlroy finds this many fairways as far as he hits it, he’s essentially playing another course. The course he’s playing spits out birdies for fun and bogeys every 18 or so holes, on average. Yep, he made four bogeys for the week (T1) and rolled in 21 birds (second). He led the field in driving distance and was T1 in GIR. Throw in a hot putter and nobody is beating him in this form. Poor Sergio had to deal with Tiger and now he’s gets a red-hot McIlroy!
The PGA is next week and McIlroy is looking to improve on the T23 that Justin Rose threw up after his back-to-back wins earlier this summer. While I was cool on Rose busting three in a row, the third one being The Open, I’m trying to figure out how to talk myself out of McIlroy doing this.
I’m not finding my answers, besides history, to dissuade me.
He’s that good.
He’s already won a PGA.
By EIGHT shots.
Only big-time players win these WGC events and McIlroy qualifies.
In 22 WGC events he’s finished in the top 10 in 13 of them.
Now, nine of the 16 winners here have won by two shots or more.
Now, 14 of the last 16 WGC events at Firestone have been won by major champions.
He becomes the first major champion to win a WGC in the last four events.
He is now the 14th player to win a major and a WGC event in his career. His previous best finish was runner up at WGC-Match Play in 2012.
He now becomes the third youngest player, 25, to win a WGC event as he joins Tiger Woods (23) and Patrick Reed (24) as the only players 25 or younger to win.
With this victory, McIlroy collects $1,530,000, 550 FedExCup points and the No. 1 ranking in the OWGR.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 24 of 39 events in 2013-14 but none in the last two weeks. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane, Kevin Streelman and Brian Harman have won for the USA.
Geoff Ogilvy adds his name to Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed six victories. Hideki Matsuyama and Seung-yul Noh are the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy are the European chalk that has won two of the three majors. McIlroy joins Day and Dustin Johnson as the WGC winners. Angel Cabrera flies the flag for South America; Tim Clark flies it for South Africa.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd, Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had 10 in 39 events in 2014.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 19 of 39 leaders have gone on to win as Sergio Garcia is now 4-12 when holding the 54-hole lead on TOUR. Geoff Ogilvy, winner of the Barracuda Championship, more on that later in the column, converted his three point lead leading into round four.
McIlroy joins Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer as the multiple winners on TOUR this season.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. Ryan Moore (30), Zach Johnson (37), Kevin Stadler (33) and Bubba Watson (35), Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30), Matt Jones (33), all were victorious before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35), Justin Rose (33), Tim Clark (38) and Geoff Ogilvy, 37, have added to the prime-timers trophy case as the season moves along.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22), Brian Harman (27) and Rory McIlroy TWICE (25), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden (42) FINALLY has some company in the winner’s circle this year for the old folks as Angel Cabrera won at Greenbrier. Jim Furyk continues his excellent 2014, minus a victory, as he finished second for the third time in seven events.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Sergio Garcia: He’s in a happy place on and off the course and it shows in his play. I’m not holding anything against him for gamely losing to McIlroy on massive stages in his last two outings. This is his third consecutive T2 or solo second finish on TOUR and fifth top three finish in seven events. He’ll be one of the favorites again next week and an automatic Group C selection in Yahoo! for me. I didn’t even have to mention that he shot 61 on Friday or he hasn’t won on TOUR since 2012.
Marc Leishman: This really pisses me off because I used him as my OAD at QLN coming off six tournaments on the bounce including T11 and T8 leading in.
Since that he was T5 at The Open and solo third this week. THE ONLY BAD WEEK IN NINE was the week I had him. Look out Leishman! I’m tapping him up BIG TIME next week as your high ball flight will be perfect at Valhalla and I’m impressed by the way he backed up that Open performance.
Charl Schwartzel: 2014 has been impossible for gamers to “time” the South African as shown by his efforts since June. His T8 was followed by MC at the U.S. Open. His T7 at The Open was followed by T43 at RBC Canadian. He opened with 65 and closed with 64 to bag another top finish, T4. Based on the above, he should be primed for a MC at Valhalla.
Patrick Reed: The man who proclaimed he was one of the best five players in the world after he won the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral has finally made good on his promise with a T4 finish this week. This is his first finish of any significance since his victory in Miami. He gave us a false positive at QLN as he lost his 54-hole lead with a closing 77 to finish T11. He also MC at The Open but that’s hardly surprising given it was his first visit. His eagle two on No. 17 was the highlight of his bogey-free 65 Sunday.
Keegan Bradley: My OAD this week kept my excellent run of results going with a T4 finish and it keeps his personal record at Firestone on fire. He’s adds this T4 to T15, WIN and T2 last year. His form is perking up when it needs to as he’s T4, T19 and T4 in his last three starts and he put all four rounds in the 60s this week. He has three T4s in his last six.
Justin Rose: The embarrassment of riches in Group B in Yahoo! this week was evident as McIlroy, Bradley and Rose demonstrated. Rose is now win, win, T23 and T4 in his last four worldwide. Like Garcia, I’m going to stop typing. This is why Rob Bolton suggested to NOT save starts at this point in the season. Get him in the lineup, folks! No point in saving them for when they cool off!
Graeme McDowell: The big question last week in Group C was whether GMAC and Garcia had enough “course form” to be put in the lineup this week. Asked and answered that question as GMAC backed up Garcia’s solo second with a tight 66-66 weekend to hit T8. That’s a great spring board for next week where his accurate driving should be to his advantage.
Rickie Fowler: Wash. Rinse. Repeat. If it’s a big event, and this qualifies as that, he’s Mr. Top 10 in 2014. His T8 continues his superb run of form even while changing his swing. His late April to early June run of MC, T38, T77, MC and MC before this current streak of T13, T2, T2 and T8 doesn’t seem possible. In four of his last five Sundays he’s fired rounds in the 60s.
Adam Scott: The former world No. 1 had to finish T5 or better if McIlroy won and instead he finished T8 after a troika of bogeys on Nos. 14, 15 and 16. I’m excited to see how he bounces back to challenge McIlroy for world domination and it should start Thursday at Valhalla. THAT should be the story next week instead of who is NOT there…
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Adam Scott: See above.
Rory McIlroy: See above.
Henrik Stenson: He began Sunday T8 but a closing 71 saw him drop to T19. Nothing to be ashamed about here!
Jim Furyk: The big showdown between me and the boys this week was Group 2 in the GolfChannel.com game as they all loaded up on the piping hot Furyk as went with course horse Bradley. All Furyk did this week was put all four rounds in the 60s to finish T15. He shot 69 on Sunday and dropped five places. He shot 69 last Sunday as well and didn’t win. His T15 is his worst finish in his last four events.
Justin Rose: See above.
Keegan Bradley: See above.
Graeme McDowell: See above.
Sergio Garcia: See above.
Zach Johnson: He fired four rounds of par or better to finish T23. His two best rounds were 68-69 on the weekend as he tunes up for Valhalla. He was right on schedule as he plays great here every OTHER year!
Matt Kuchar: Let’s all bow our heads in a moment of silence as this week Kuchar missed the top 10 by a shot and Bernhard Langer lost by one shot to Kenny Perry on the Champions Tour. In other news, the sun will be coming up in the East tomorrow morning and the sun will be yellow.
Rickie Fowler: See above.
Luke Donald: The only places he’s played well in 2014 are places he’s had past successes. Firestone was one of these places as he hit the top 10 three years running before T50 and no rounds under 70 this year. I’m legitimately concerned moving forward as he has struggled to find any consistency this season. Since his solo second at Harbour Town, his best finish is T38 in six TOUR events. No, thanks if he can’t fire on a course he loves.
Jordan Spieth: He beat Luke Donald by a shot and never played here before. That’s not good news or bad news, it’s just a fact. He’s 20. This is going to happen. After T2 at the Masters and T2 at THE PLAYERS, I keep forgetting that he is still learning EVERYWHERE.
Jason Dufner: He would have not been in Range Rover if I would have known he was having the problems he’s been having. Not being able to sleep or be comfortable explains his “off” year in 2014. His steroids worked on Thursday as his neck held up to even par; 74-73-77 was the result the next three days. Dufner should be off gamer’s lists moving forward.
Martin Kaymer: How do you say “all or nothing” in German. Good grief.
Jimmy Walker: No rounds over 70 and no rounds under 69 saw Walker put another notch is his expanding belt in big events. His T26 is pretty solid considering the field and his lack of course knowledge.
Victor Dubuisson: After signing for 72 in round one, the Frenchman became a quick learner to fire 70-69-68 to close T31. Each round got better. The more we see of him the more impressive he continues to be. Not bad for 24.
Tiger Woods: They were the best of times. They were the worst of times. Hit it 40 yards right. Hit it 40 yards left. Hit it 40 yards short on a par three. Hit it to three feet from the beer tent. It was an eventful week and his back is knackered again as he WD after nine holes on Sunday. For those who used him in OAD he found a way NOT to cash in an event without a cut. That sums up Wooods’ 2014 season in a nutshell. Why he hurried up to come back is beyond me. Let’s hope this isn’t ANOTHER major setback.
Hideki Matsuyama: He’s only 22. He shot 65-68 after 70-71 to finish T12, an improvement of his T20 last year. How do you say “LEGIT” in Japanese?
Brendon Todd: Same as Dubuisson, he improved as the week went on after opening with 74. The one thing I absolutely love about Todd is that he never mails it in. Not at the U.S. Open. Not at The Open. Not here either. He closed with 70-69-70 to finish T45 and plan to attack for next time.
Phil Mickelson: After saying he had no chance to play well anytime soon he fired a season-best 62 with 10 birdies on Sunday to finish T12. Yep, another week, another ALMOST top 10! It was his best finish at course he doesn’t particularly love since 2008.
Jason Day: He WD with dizziness. He is constantly sick or injured and a nightmare for weekly gamers.
Graham DeLaet: After his top 10 in Montreal gamers were probably tempted to have a sniff this week. DeLaet had the flu and WD.
Dustin Johnson: Somebody leaked a whole bunch of dirt on him this week as he said he was leaving the TOUR to get treatment for his personal issues. Cocaine, marijuana, adultery, suspensions (plural) gave the week a bit of a soap-opera feel so I guess golf writers are no different than the rest of us. Is there anyone happier that Tiger Woods was injured on Sunday than Dustin Johnson? Poor Joe LaCava has caddied for BOTH of these dudes.
Australian Geoff Ogilvy racked up a tournament-record setting performance as he scored 49 points to comfortably win the Barracuda Championship at Montreux Golf and Country Club in Reno, Nevada. This was Ogilvy’s first win since he held the trophy at Kapalua in 2010 at the HTOC. Justin Hicks was second in the modified Stableford scoring system with 44 points. John Huh and Jonathan Byrd shared third place five points adrift of Hicks.
Ogilvy’s win this week will more than double his 2014 earnings as he adds $540k to his $470k in the bank. He now breaks the $1 million mark for the first time since 2012 as he is finally starting to put it all together. There were plenty of reasons why he didn’t register on gamer’s radars this week. This was his first top 10 since the 2013 Honda Classic. In 20 events previous this season he’s played in only 11 weekends and only found the top 25 twice. He also hasn’t played this course since 2002 so there wasn’t much pointing him in the right direction this week. Last week he put all four rounds at par or better at Royal Montreal and went home with T34 so nothing jumped off the page there.
This week he smashed the tournament record because of his excellent week in all facets of his game. He ball-striking was very solid as he was T11 in fairways and T4 in GIR. His putter, which had been his Achilles heel, cooperated as he was 12th in strokes gained-putting (SGP) and second in putts per GIR. This led to two eagles, 22 birdies and only five bogeys as he lapped the field. His two eagles were T2 and his 22 birdies were T4 on the week.
Moving forward I’ll stay cautiously optimistic. Four years between wins is plenty, especially during the prime of one’s career so how he bounces from this performance will be nothing short of interesting. Remember, this is same guy who has the second-most WGC victories, 3, as he has won the Match Play twice and Doral once. Oh, he also won the 2006 U.S. Open. These all feel like they happened 100 years ago but gamers who put their dollars on him bouncing back from his career-worst season last year, they have been pleasantly rewarded. Ogilvy has only played more than 20 events once in the last nine seasons and this was event No. 20 for him. He’ll definitely play more than that this year as his victory puts him in the field next week at the PGA Championship at Valhalla. Ogilvy now has eight career wins and becomes the first non-American winner in 16 Barracuda Championships.
Justin Hicks: Poor guy who was second by a mile tied last year’s tournament record with 44 points. He lost by five points. He holed 27 birdies because had a great week ball-striking, hardly a surprise, and a great week on the greens as well as he was seventh in SGP and fourth in putts per GIR. He backed up his career best effort last week at Royal Montreal, solo third, with solo second this week. Obviously he’s winning the PGA next week!
John Huh: Welcome back to The Takeaway for the first time since T3 at Harbour Town. In nine events after that T3 he only made four of his next nine cuts. He only had four rounds in the 60s in those events. In his last seven events he made only two cuts and only one round in the 60s. He had never played in the event before this week as well. Needless to say he wasn’t registering with me this week. His eagle on the final hole is the reason he’s back in the column as he jumped from T14 to T3.
Jonathan Byrd: After finishing T2 here last year he adds T3 this season and enters the Barracuda horse-for-course hall of fame. He was T4 GIR but was 45th in SGP so just imagine if he holed any putts. Those two finishes are his best in the last year and his only top 10s. After T14 at WGC Byrd made three cuts in his next events and his best finish was T51. Projecting fantasy golf is quite difficult so leaning on previous course form is a great way to find long-shot value.
Rod Pampling: His solo fifth gives him his third top 10 in nine events at Montreux. This was Pampling’s seventh start of the year. He was three of six with T64 as his best finish. God bless you if he was in the lineup this week. This was his first top 10 since T8 at Torrey Pines in 2012.
Martin Laird: The only player in the top 12 to have a “minus” round, -4 in round two, Laird rallied on the weekend to score 26 points to finish T6. Laird, already in the horse-for-course HOF at Montreux, now has played this event three times and finished T4, T2 and T6. Entering the week his best finish in 2014 was T19 on February 2. His next best finish was last week at Royal Montreal with T29. This is his first top 10 since last year’s PLAYERS.
Jason Allred: Mr. Monday Qualifier: 2014 began the day in second but after five bogeys in a nine-hole stretch Sunday killed his chances of his first win. He did birdie three of the last six to stay in the top 10. He’s now four of eight in 2014 and two of those have hit the top 10 as he was T3 at Riviera.
Tim Wilkinson: He finds the top 10, T8, for the first time since his T7 at Pebble Beach in February. This is his third T24 or better in his last six starts so his game has been steady.
Kyle Stanley: He joins fellow Clemson non-putter Byrd in the top 10 this week with T8 thanks to a closing eagle that took him from T25 to T8. The usually fantastic ball-striker was only T42 in GIR but he was seventh in putts per GIR. He also joins the club of never have played here before. He was T35, T63 and T12 in his last three, his best stretch since third, T6 and T33 last year from the Zurich through THE PLAYERS. In fantasy land his ONLY value is to season-long gamers because trying to time his putting is near impossible. Be ready to ride the roller coaster!
Ricky Barnes: His only bogey on Sunday knocked him out of a T6 spot to T8 as he played the last hole, a par five, two-OVER for the week. After his T9 a Puerto Rico he jumped back into the conversation with a quick start at the QLN before fading to T11.
Nick Watney: The bookmakers favorite this week set a new scoring round record on Thursday with 18 points but could only muster eight points on the weekend. His last seven events have tested the patience of gamers. He MC at the U.S. Open but followed that with T11 at the Travelers. His T30 at QLN was backed up by back-to-back MC before his T12 with a closing 67 last week in Canada. This was his first top 10 since his solo second at Conway Farms in the Playoffs last year.
What happened to my guys this week
Nick Watney: See above.
Michael Putnam: He began the final day T8 but blew up in the wrong way to finish the day minus 5 and finished T47. Coming how in 41 with two bogeys and two doubles will do that.
Andres Romero: He closed with 10 points on Sunday to move up 15 spots to T27. That’s not a top three like he achieved in his last two starts here but still solid.
J.J. Henry: His T34 was better than his MC last year but not as good as his win two years ago.
Justin Hicks: See above.
Brad Fritsch: Gamers saw him trending in the right direction after T13 and T9 in his last two TOUR events, including closing with 67-64 last weekend. Add that to his T20 here last year and his MC stings a bit this week.
Dicky Pride: Like Fritsch, he closed great last weekend with 63 on Sunday at Royal Montreal but couldn’t keep the mo’ going as he MC.
Kevin Chappell: Constantly teasing gamers as he stops and starts more than a NYC cab in rush hour traffic, Chappell was T11 GIR and 71st in SGP. His 10 points Sunday moved him to a respectable T34 but gamers will remind me he had 12 points after the first day. Up and down. Stop and start.
Scott Langley: Five bogeys and a double dug a hole too deep as he MC.
Brendan Steele: One and done-rs won’t be very happy as he lost a point on Sunday to drop from T4 to T25. Steele was doing his usual dismantling of Montreux until he failed to make a birdie in his final 15 holes. He couldn’t back up his T8 in 2012 and fourth last year but there is no doubt he likes the layout in Reno.
Stuart Appleby: He posted T18, T16 and T16 in three of the last four years but his current form was too overwhelming as he MC for the third time in three events.
Ben Curtis: Not many players have negative numbers on Sunday but he was one of them, T61.
Will Wilcox: Making birdies shouldn’t have been a problem for a guy who shot 59 last year on the web.com Tour and was T4 just a few weeks ago at Greenbrier. I guess not as he MC. Old guys, young guys, guys in the middle, you name it, they shanked it.
Jamie Lovemark: His T34 extends his solid run to five events in a row where he’s played the weekend. He now is 0-for-Sundays will rounds in the 60s but he did shoot 70. He’s moving in the right direction.
Patrick Rodgers: Be patient, he’ll be just fine. His T39 showed him flash his brilliance in rounds one and three (11 pts each day) and his youthfulness with only four total points in rounds two and four.
David Toms: He made the cut after scoring 11 points on Friday but never made it to the course on Saturday as he WD with a back injury.
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon
I post my weekly preview column, Range Rover for the TOUR stop and Playing the Tips. Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the PGA Championship plus answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.
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