A WGC Bridgestone Invitational without Tiger is like a Christmas without Santa. It just doesn’t seem right. But we’ll make do with a stellar field right before a major. Buckle up for the WGC Bridgestone Invite.
About the Sponsor
The week, we’re playing the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, which is cool since Bridgestone bought Firestone (the tire company) back in 1988!
Now in the golfing circle, Bridgestone makes kind of ok golf balls, and pays some guys like Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar and Fred Couples some money to go on tv and talk about how they’re a golf company.
Well I’m sitting here thinking, how does a company that makes tires get into the golf bidness? So I’ll do a little investigating and get back to you. In the meantime, enjoy this not at all cheesy commercial brought to you by Bridgestone.
Hope you enjoyed that, and I’m back with the lowdown on the history of Bridgestone. Here’s a quick synopsis for you all, cause I care so much.
So Bridgestone was started in 1931 by Shojiro Ishibashi, who’s last name of “Ishibashi”, means “stone bridge”. A simple flip of the two words and you’re left with Bridgestone! Now Bridgestone’s primary business is making tires. Tires for cars, motorcycles, bikes, and airplanes, where it is the #1 manufacturer in the world. But along with just making tires, they’ve always led with innovation and being able to stay ahead of competitors with research, something that Japanese companies tend to do, and probably allowed them to stay on top for 80 some years now.
And apparently, along with their rubber research, they started making golf equipment, with rubber being at the core of a golf ball. Bridgestone golf isn’t a recent thing either, with the first balls coming in 1935, and clubs and other accessories coming in the 1970s. Just a guess, some executive (I’m looking at you Mr. Stonebridge) must have liked golf enough to try to out technology his competitors.
Edit: I’ve been informed that one of the Firestones was the Bachelor at one point, and that this was important information to add here. Here’s his picture.
About the Tournament
Starting all the way back in 1976, the PGA Tour has had an event at Firestone CC (see below for course information). First known as World Series of Golf, then the NEC World Series of Golf in 1984. Moving right along to 1999, the event became part of the WGC family as the WGC-NEC Invitational, and now finally became the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational back in 2006.
As with the other WGC events, this tournament features a limited field and no cut! So the winners of events on the PGA Tour of Australasia, the Sunshine Tour, the Asian Tour and two selected tournaments from the Japan Golf Tour who all get invitations to this event are guaranteed some dollars (American that is) for just showing up. Along with that, we have a limited field with only about 75 players. Which also means, no cut!
This tournament also starts off a stretch of 6 out of 7 weeks of play for the top guys in the world. Starting here, they play the PGA next week, then a week off (or play the Wyndham Championship), then the FedEx Cup playoffs start right after. Nice little stretch of golf for fans like us.
And finally, no discussion about the WGC Bridgestone at Firestone would be complete without mentioning how Tiger has won here 8 times in his career. Since his first win ’99, he won 50% of the times he’s played there. Quite the joke. Here’s a video of Tiger to get you pumped up, but also a little sad that he’s not playing this week. Poor Tiger 😦
About the Course
Firestone Country Club, located in Akron, Ohio, has been a mainstay on the PGA Tour since 1954 when it hosted the Rubber City Open for a few years, and then the PGA Championship three times before this tournament began in ’76. The tournament is played on the South Course which was designed in 1929, with the North Course being added in 1969, and the West Course in 1989.
The course has two defining holes that everyone knows about. The first is the par 5 16th which sits at 667 yards. Now a 667 yard hole is fine, cause all that takes is a good drive and a wood probably to get home, especially with how hard the fairways are for normal PGA Tour events. But in this case, we got a pond in front of the green. So that second shot has to carry and land on the green if you want to get home. Some players do it, most lay up, but it’s a fun one to watch.
Also check out this picture below to see what players are looking at after their drives. Tiger has such a good position at impact it’s absurd. He also didn’t get to the red tees, which means he should have hit with his pants down. Something he’s used to doing. Heyo!!
The par 4 18th finishing hole is known, as many 18th holes are, for being the last hole of the tournament! See that video from Tiger above for reference. There’s a semi kidney shaped green with a giant tree that guards the back hole location. Gives a cool second shot for a player trying to win a tournament on the 72nd hole. Looking at that now, I hope nothing kills that tree like lightning or high wind since the hole would lose a decent amount of character. Which reminds me of some advice for aspiring golf course designers — Don’t let a tree be the defining feature of a hole! Alright, that’s all the wisdom I have for today.
Rory McIlroy (pour one out) shot a -4 66 to win by two over Sergio, who pulled a Sergio by shooting 1 over on the day to lose. Granted, he wouldn’t have been able to shoot +1 and only lose by two if he hadn’t shot 61 in the second round by birding his last 7 holes to shoot 27 on the back nine. Gdamn Sergio.
What to Watch For
All the players! — Since there’s no cut, you get to see everyone, every day in the week.
Foreigners at the bottom of the leaderboard — I mentioned this above, but with a WGC event, we some random foreigners off random tours who get to play. Now I don’t mean to be cynical about it, but these guys are probably going to be at the bottom of the leaderboard. But still fun to watch how they do, since this is a great place to kickstart an American career if they play well.
Dustin Johnson — Breaking away from his recent schedule of only playing in the majors, we get to see DJ back in action this week, hopefully going for the par 5 16th in two. Clearly his game is feeling really good.
The Barracuda Championship — WGC event means we get a PGA Tour event opposite! The former Reno-Tahoe Open is the Barracuda Championship. Still in Reno-Tahoe, but now with more Stableford! Combine points with the thin mountain air (which means the ball travels really far) makes it a fun event to watch at night on the Golf Channel after the WGC coverage winds down. Would be a fun event to do a preview for too.