Franklin/Getty ImagesKeegan Bradley and Jason Dufner square off in a rematch of their 2011 duel at the PGA Championship.
AKRON, Ohio — Tee times have been release for the first two rounds of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, which begins Thursday on the South Course at Firestone Country Club. Here are some of the groups we’ll be watching. Use the comments section below to tell us yours.
Rory McIlroy/Ryo Ishikawa: Two of the most talented young players in the game, their combined age of 43 is less than three other players in the field – Steve Stricker and David Toms, who are both 45, and 44-year-old Toru Taniguchi. Ishikawa tied for fourth at Firestone last year while McIlroy, a former U.S. Open champion, was sixth, his second straight top-10.
Tiger Woods/Brandan Grace: The two are three-time winners already this year — Woods on the PGA TOUR and the South African on the European Tour. Grace is playing in his first Bridgestone Invitational and just his second World Golf Championships. Woods, on the other hand, has won 16 of these global events, including seven at Firestone alone.
Dustin Johnson, Alvaro Quiros: These two are among the biggest hitters in the game. Johnson ranks seventh on the PGA TOUR with an average of 305.5 yards per poke while Quiros, who is from Spain, stands second on the European Tour at 313.4. They are more than one-dimensional players, though. Johnson picked up his sixth PGA TOUR victory earlier this year while Quiros has six in Europe.
Ernie Els, Bubba Watson: Two of the year’s three major champions meet in this pairing. Els came from behind to win his second British Open two weeks ago while Watson picked up his maiden major win at the Masters in a playoff with Louis Oosthuizen. Els, a World Golf Hall of Famer, has 19 wins on the PGA TOUR but hasn’t had a top-10 finish at Firestone since 2001. Watson has four career victories and a pair of top-20 finishes at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott: All eyes will be on the Aussie, Scott, as he defends his title here two weeks after bogeying his final four holes on Sunday at Royal Lytham and squandering a chance to win his first major. Matt Kuchar picked up his fourth PGA TOUR title earlier this year at THE PLAYERS Championship. His best finish in three appearances at Firestone is a tie for ninth in 2010.
Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald: Donald, the world No. 1, will be looking for World Golf Championships win No. 2 at Firestone this week. The Englishman has five PGA TOUR victories and tied for second a year ago at Firestone, his second straight top-10 here. Mickelson has won two World Golf Championships but his best finish in the Bridgestone Invitational came in his first appearance, second to Tiger Woods in 1999.
Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner: The two protagonists in last year’s PGA Championship are reunited in this pairing. The Wanamaker Trophy marked Bradley’s second title of 2011 while Dufner has gotten his two breakthrough victories this season. Bradley tied for 15th at Firestone last year while Dufner is making his debut at Firestone this week.