W.G.C. Bridgestone Invitational. Rory Resplendent.

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Rory McIlroy was resplendent in winning the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, overcoming a three shot deficit to win by two shots, and in doing so became World Number One again.

WGC Bridgestone Invitational

Rory and Trophy / Getty Images

Rory returned a final round of -4 under par 66 to post a winning total -15 under par to win the WGC Bridgestone Invitational by two shots, again, over Sergio Garcia. At the post match interview Rory stressed the importance of his well-behaved driver;

“If you’re hitting arguably the hardest club in your bag that well, then the other stuff should sort of fall in line. Whenever I drive the ball well, I always put myself in positions where I can attack flags and try and make birdies, but when I’m swinging it well with a driver that sort of funnels through the rest of my game.”

The big thing for me is if you let it affect you mentally, it makes it more difficult, if you can stay strong mentally when you’re going through the struggles you always seem to come out the other side OK. It’s when it affects you mentally you can start to lose confidence, then you’re losing confidence in your swing. It can spiral out of control, kind of like I did last summer.”

“It’s the most comfortable I’ve ever felt trying to close out a golf tournament out there today. I felt normal. I felt like it was the first round or the second round. It didn’t feel like a fourth round. What I am really proud of this week is following on from The Open with a performance like this.”

“I said straight after I did not want any let down, I wanted to keep going and performing until the end of the season. It’s great to come to one of my favourite tournaments of the year and to perform like this I am pretty satisfied.”

Sergio’s putting problems resurfaced, he carded a +1 over par 71, for his -13 under par total;

“I didn’t feel comfortable on the greens at all, with the spin of the greens changing quite dramatically after the rain, they got a little bit;  they were quite slow for the last three days.”

“I started kind of second-guessing myself every single putt, and because of that, I didn’t; the good putt I hit, I misread, and the bad ones, obviously, weren’t going the right direction either.”

Marc Leishman finished in third position on his own at -13 under par, another steady round of -3 under par 67, keeping him near the top of the leaderboard, where he has been all week.

Adam Scott missed his chance to stay at World Number One, shooting a last round +1 over par 71, to finish in a tie for 8th, he bogeyed three of his final five holes;

“I was pretty scratchy every round this week, so I was scrambling a bit, and that was good. But just lost my rhythm a little bit on a couple of holes on the back nine. Couldn’t scramble hard enough.”

” It’s all good, it’s been a lot of fun. Obviously, Rory’s in incredible form at the moment. He’ll be the man to beat next week, by the looks of things, and I’ll be gunning for him for sure.”

Phil suddenly found some real form with a final round -8 under par 62, and a T15 place, so he could be a contender next week at the PGA;

“This was a big day for me heading into next week because I feel like I’m not trying to search and find it on Thursday. I feel like my game is right there. I feel like I found what I’m looking for. I just have to keep it going and build on today’s round and put together four good, solid rounds.”

“I don’t know what will happen next week, but if I play well, I’ll look back to today’s round as being the key point.”

Tiger had to withdraw from the tournament, citing back problems, it is unlikely that he will appear next week.

 

W.G.C. Bridgestone Invitational. Sergio Survives Soggy Saturday

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Sergio Garcia survived a soggy Saturday at the Firestone Country Club in the third round of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, maintaining his position at the top of the leaderboard. The round included a three-hour delay due to thunderstorms.

 

WGC Bridgestone Invitational

Sergio on soggy Saturday / Getty Images

Sergio cared a -3 under par 67 to keep his place at the top of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational with a -14 under par tournament total, a three shot lead going into the final round tomorrow. That lead is over Rory McIlroy, who Sergio tried to chase down last at Royal Liverpool. This time it will be Rory doing the chasing, and Sergio is looking forward to the challenge, he also spoke about the good par he made on 18 today;

“Obviously, Rory is playing great, and we get along nicely as of right now, I think we’re both excited about it. We’re definitely going to play hard. It will be nice to see if I can do the same thing he did to me a couple of weeks ago. So we’ll see.”

“The one on 18 is the one that felt the best, because it was probably the toughest to make par. Where I hit it, I couldn’t really do much more than that and hope to make a good two-putt.”

Rory birdied the final two holes today to reduce the arrears, with a -11 under par total;

” My goal today was to try and get in the final group, Sergio didn’t quite have that luxury of seeing what I was doing on the last. It will be nice to play alongside him tomorrow and at least keep an eye on what’s going on. “

“Try to apply a bit of pressure when I can, but just really looking forward to getting in there and having another chance to win a tournament so soon after what happened at Hoylake.”

It would be wrong to assume this is just a two-horse race, Marc Leishman posted a -2 under par a 68 and was five shots behind at -9 under, in third spot alone.

Adam Scott returned from the three-hour rain delay carrying only his long putter, the only weapon he needed to convert one last birdie for a -5 under par 65 that at least left him with a slim chance. He is six shots behind the leader, sharing fourth place with Keegan Bradley and Justin Rose all at -8 under par.

Defending champion Tiger Woods made only one birdie on Saturday, and he also failed to birdie a par 5 for the second straight day, shooting +2 over par 72, 15 shots behind.

W.G.C. Bridgestone Invitational. Sergio Streaks Seven birdies in a Row.

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Sergio Garcia streaks seven birdies in a row at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.

WGC Bridgestone Invitational

Sergio Garcia / Getty Images

Sergio scored seven birdies in a row on the back nine to post a second round -9 under par 61, requiring only 27 strokes on that last nine holes at Firestone Country Club. The amazing effort equaled the course record, and in doing so gave Sergio a three shot lead at the top of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational leaderboard with a -11 under par mid way total.

He said it was a magical moment, and he did not want it to end;

“Just one of those moments that you love and you enjoy and you wish there were no end. It was a combination of getting good numbers, hitting good shots. Then when I wasn’t too close from the hole, I rolled a couple of nice putts in.”

“It was definitely a dream back nine. I felt like I started well and hit some good shots early on, but still missed a couple of good birdie chances.”

“Then I obviously got a little bit lucky on the front nine. I hit three bad tee shots on four, eight and nine, and I was able to have a shot at the green and made a couple of good up and downs.”

“Then the back nine was, I don’t know, I just started hitting good shots, rolling the putts in, and everything seemed to happen. I was just enjoying it as much as I could.”

“It obviously feels great to be able to shoot the course record or equal the record on a course like this, which is not; even playing soft; that easy a course.”

“You have to drive the ball very, very well. You have to put the ball on the greens on the right spots because you can get some really, really fast putts. So to be able to do it and obviously being in a group with Tiger and Jose Maria, but still, to be able to be in that group, it feels really good.”

Justin Rose is in second place at -8 under par, he had a good second round of -3 under par 67 and said he was happy about the way he has started this tournament;

“I am really happy with the way I turned the long game around, and to hit 16 greens out there is pretty solid, but for the most part I just hit it close to the hole as well.”

“Early in the round, the putts kept sliding by. I wasn’t seeing the line all that well and I think 18 was the first putt I made. From there I felt pretty comfortable with the putts and I had a couple of good looks coming in. All in all, it’s a good start to the tournament.”

Third position is tied between Rory McIlroy and Marc Leishman, both posting half-way totals of -7 under par. Rory could reclaim top spot in the Official World Golf Rankings if he collects the trophy at Firestone and Adam Scott fails to make the top five. He said he knew Sergio was playing well in front of him, he could hear the crowd cheering;

“He obviously played in front of us, and he seemed like he was playing well. Every time I looked back, he was putting a ball in the hole, and the crowd was cheering. I knew that he was making a few birdies, and I knew I had to make a few birdies just to try and stay in touch. It was nice just to make a few coming in.” 

“I’m still four back going into the weekend, but I feel like that could have been a lot more. So it’s a good finish. I do have a good relationship with Sergio, and it’s just great to see him play like this again.” 

“I grew up idolising the guy. He’s obviously really happy with everything that’s going on. He seems in a really good place, and it’s good to see him play like this.”

Phil’s miserable malaise continues, even hitting a marshal with his ball today. A wayward tee shot on the fourth hole in today’s second round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational struck the official. Phil being Phil, he went on to par the hole, but it did not improve his second round score of +3 over par for +4 over total.

WGC Bridgestone Invitational. Lucky Tiger Leads.

Tiger Woods leads the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, partly due to a generous ruling which enabled him to get a free drop from a poor lie.

Eyes on the prize

Tiger Woods / Getty

Tiger Woods was on his way to posting a 59, when on the last hole he hit a wayward tee shot, leaving him behind some tall tree’s. He attempted to go over the tree’s but did not get enough height, the ball rebounding off the tree and then the hospitality tent, coming to rest on a bare lie. A generous official gave him a free drop off the bare lie, he subsequently made the green and sunk a 25 ft putt to save par, for a round of -9 under par 61. He is now seven shots clear of the field at -13 under par, and with that sort of lead even Cheyenne Woods, daughter of Tiger’s half-brother, Earl Dennison Woods Jr, could defend that total.

When asked if he was miffed at not carding a 59 Tiger responded with;

” Disappointed, absolutely not, a 61’s pretty good. I’m not bummed. How about just pleased, I’m very happy I was able to post that. I just kept thinking, whatever lead I had, `Let’s just keep increasing it.’ It’s at seven now, I believe. So that’s not too bad after two days.”

It seemed like every fan on the course was cheering Tiger towards the magic 59, and he said he heard their excitement;

“Oh, they were excited, you could hear it more than feel it. You definitely could hear it, they were into it. It’s nice to be playing in front of people who are excited like that, especially people who aren’t yelling just because your ball gets in the air. You know, we are pros. I had opportunities to make putts there at 15 and 17. 

Keegan Bradley and Chris Wood are tied in a distant second place, at -6 under par, they face competition to finish in second place from Bill Hass and Henrik Stenson who are on -5 under par.  Jim Furyk, Luke Donald, Jason Duffner and Bubba Watson are all at -4 under par.

Keegan was top of the leaderboard when he finished his second round, and watched Tiger birdie the first two holes, he hoped the birdie fest would not continue, he was wrong;

Tiger, those first couple holes out there are definitely birdie holes, so I’d expect him to do that. You know, I hope he doesn’t go too low.”

This tournament is all over bar the engraving of the Trophy, actually they could even do that right now.

WGC Bridgestone Invitational. Webb Simpson 1st Round Leader.

Webb Simpson is the 1st round leader at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, South Course.

Opportunity knocks

Webb Simpson / Getty Images

Webb had a first round of -6 under par 64 to lead the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone by just one shot.

Webb said he had profited from his caddie Paul Tesori’s knowledge of the Firestone course;

“Well, I knew it all through my caddie Paul Tesori, who’s been here so many years, I just kind of had to listen to him. It’s hard for us players to listen to our caddies, but he basically showed me where to go yesterday and told me where to hit it, where the lines were, what clubs to hit. I didn’t feel like it was my first time because he has so much experience here.”

Henrik Stenson is in second place at -5 under par, 65 to occupy that position on his own. Henrik was upset about his bogey on the last hole, and the fact his new shoes caused a blister and he swapped back to his old pair;

“I wish I didn’t bogey the last hole, it’s one area I’ve got to get better at. When I’m between clubs, hitting more club and swinging easy is where I’ve been struggling. You know, there’s always something to work on. I feel like I’ve let a couple of tournaments go that maybe I should have closed out. They might not match the outfit perfectly, but it felt like I had socks on compared to the other ones.”

You notice there was no mention of the shoe maker, I guess there was too much money involved.

There are four players tied in fourth spot at -4 under par, they are; Ryan Moore, Chris Wood, Keegan Bradley and Tiger Woods.

Tiger reported that he had really concentrated on the wind factor and how he has taken advantage of the Firestone course in the past;

“I hit a lot of good shots. I had a really good feel for the distance today, and Joey and I really read the wind right today. We changed a lot of shots out there, and we both had a really good handle on what we were doing feel-wise with the wind. Luckily, over the years I’ve taken advantage of it. I have played well and I’ve scored well, and I’ve won my share of tournaments here.”

Keegan is trying to ignore the pressure to do something crazy;

” It’s business as usual, I just want to not put too much pressure on myself to do anything crazy. I know this golf course fits me, so to let the course come to me is big here.”

Phil Mickelson, coming off his fantastic victory at the British Open two weeks ago, unfortunately seemed to struggled with his concentration and came in with a +2 over par 72.

“Tonight I’ll get a little bit more rest and try not to do too much and see if I can come out tomorrow a little bit more focused.”

Rory McIlroy will defend his title at the PGA next week, I don’t think he has a hope, Rory has not won a tournament since the PGA, in a year of amazing up and down swings that included a Ryder Cup victory and a whole series of disappointments. Rory shot an even par round of  70. He said he was just throwing shots away;

“I just threw a few shots away around the greens. You know, you start to save shots there and all of a sudden you’re -3, -4 or 5-under par.”

Sony Open, Rookie Russell Rips Up the Record Books.

Smashing debut

Winning Rookie Russell Henley / Petersen/Getty Images

The Sony Open was won by rookie Russell Henley on his Tour debut, and doing so he ripped up the standing records for just about everything.

Russell  finished at -24 under par and a total score of 256, breaking by four shots the Sony Open in Hawaii scoring record, last set by Brad Faxon in 2001. Russell relegated Tim Clark into second place by three shots, Tim was himself on fire, he birdied seven of his last eleven holes and actually only made up one shot on Russell, the rookie from the University of Georgia.

Russell is now tied at the top the FedEx Cup standings in the company of Dustin Johnson on 500 points. The win was the second-lowest score for a 72-hole tournament in PGA TOUR history, two shots behind Tommy Armour III in 2003 at the Valero Texas Open. He also  set tournament records for the low 36-hole score after his 63-63 start, he shared the 54-hole record with Scott Langley and also set another tournament record with the lowest final round by a Champion.

Add to that he became the first PGA TOUR rookie to win his debut since Garrett Willis did at Tucson in 2001, and he will be going to the Masters in April, a local tournament for the boy from Macon, Georgia.

He said of his record breaking day that he had never been so nervous, you would not have imagined that watching him coming down the stretch on Sunday. He played the last nine holes superbly.

“I don’t really know what happened, honestly, this is the most nervous I’ve ever been. That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s been my goal to make it to the Masters my whole life. I’m kind of speechless right now.”

With the results  of his Web.com Tour season last year and this win Russell Henley has already made it into the world rankings inside the top fifty.  That ranking will get him into the Accenture-Match Play Championship for the top 64 in the world, the qualifying date is only a month away, and he should also be in line for the other WGC at the Cadillac Championship, and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, not forgetting the PGA Championship. All in all quite a PGA TOUR debut, I look forward to watching Russell this season, it will be interesting to see how far he can go, he obviously has the talent.

 

WGC Bridgestone Invitational, Furyk Flops at Firestone, Keegan Wins

Buried treasure

Keegan Bradley/Greenwood/Getty Images

Keegan Bradley won the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, after Jim Furyk flopped over on the last hole. Another tournament that did not follow the script, this is why people watch golf, it’s never done and dusted. Standing on the tee at eighteen Jim had a one stroke lead. He proceeded to hit a poor tee shot, which hit a tree but fortunately rebounded back into play on the fairway. He followed that shot with another poor effort that landed in the short but tough rough on the edge of the front bunker. Keegan’s second shot into the green, from the fairway, plunged into the same bunker that Jim had just missed. At this point no one knew who had the better option on the third shot, Jim chipping over the bunker from the rough, or Keegan trying to extricate himself out of the bunker from a plugged lie. Jim duffed his and Keegan came out of the bunker beautifully albeit 15 feet from the hole. Jim’s next effort left him just 5 feet from the hole, which appeared good enough seeing as Keegan was still some distance from the cup. Keegan sunk his putt for a four, and Jim then missed his short put for a five and a play-off. What drama, the strange twists and turns on the last hole, and poor Jim who had led the tournament right up until his last putt on the last hole. Jim said about his performance;

“I led the golf tournament the entire way and lost it on the very last hole. To get that close and to know that I played more than good enough to win the golf tournament, and not close the door, is disappointing. It is a cruel game. I’ve lost some tournaments in some pretty poor fashions, but I don’t think I’ve let one ever slip nearly as bad as this one. This was my worst effort to finish off an event. My worst putt of the week. I have no one to blame but myself, but when things go wrong, it’s an empty feeling. I’m disappointed. I walked over, my boy is crying right after the round. And I guess it reminds you as an adult,  as a parent,  that you have to act the proper way. You have to do and say the right things to try to give the right lessons. But there’s no way I should have made any worse than 5 on the last hole, there’s no way I should have done worse than a playoff. Keegan played a heck of a back nine, he did everything he needed to do to win the golf tournament. I felt like I did the same, until the 18th hole.”

Keegan was on top of the world, insisting he never thought he would miss that last putt, to preserve his -13 under par total.

“I didn’t think for a second I was going to miss it. It was unbelievable. I got behind it, and I barely even had to read it. I knew the exact way it was going to break. I just needed to hit it hard enough. I knew that. And it was dead center. My hope standing on the 18th tee was to make birdie and maybe force a playoff, but you know, just from being out here, you just never know what’s going to happen.”

Keegan had a last round -6 under par 64, while Jim could only muster a -1 under par 69. Yesterday I called this competition a two-horse race,  it turned out to be an exciting adventure with the pack chasing down Jim Furyk. Steve Stricker finished with a -12 total, to tie Jim for second place, leaving Louis Oosthuizen alone in fourth spot.

At eight under were Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, who must both be pretty pleased with their overall performance. Luke Donald plodded his way round for a par round, but managed to finish in the top ten, and he must now be thinking of Kiawah Island next week. He will need a improved performance if he is to contend there.