Hats off to Troy Merritt. The American went a combined 14-under par over the weekend to leave an illustrious chasing pack in his wake and lift his maiden PGA Tour title. We extend similar cap-doffing to Alex Carter who took the weekly spoils in our Fantasy Golf game. His ‘ForeLeeeft’ team included Merritt and four others who were no worse than tied-fourth – namely Fowler, Rose, Haas and Thomas. That combination earned him a staggering 152 points – 19 more than his closest challenger.
This week marks the halfway point in our Fantasy Golf season and the next couple of weeks could go a long way to determining your finishing position. Double points are on offer for this week’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational before the year’s final major and triple points at the US PGA Championship.
Firestone’s South Course stages this week’s major dress rehearsal and certainly provides a tough test. At 7,400 yards and with seven par fours playing more than 460 yards, the par 70 is aptly nicknamed ‘The Monster’. As well as its length, this classic American parkland boasts tight fairways, thick rough and expansive greens. Quite simply there is nowhere to hide here. Rory McIlroy was the champion 12 months ago and was first in driving distance, 12th in driving accuracy, first in greens in regulation and seventh in strokes-gained putting.
Some 73 of the world’s best – comprising the majority of the world’s top 50 and recent tournament winners – are teeing it up this week but the pre-tournament talk has been dominated by two men who won’t be here. McIlroy is still out through injury and seems unlikely to return in time to defend his US PGA title next week. Then there is Tiger Woods. Last week’s host had us all on the edge of our seats last Friday as a second round 66 got him into contention. It was a brief stay, though. Saturday’s 74 quickly extinguished his chances of returning to the winner’s circle after two years away, though a final round 68 left him feeling positive. He may be 262nd in the world but it seems harsh that someone who has lifted this trophy eight times since 1999 is unable to compete this time around.
The forecast is for a warm and dry four days with just a chance of rain on Thursday afternoon. Here’s my line-up this week…
Justin Rose, £4.5m
Retained in my side from last week, the Englishman is in great form, notching three top-six finishes in his last five starts. He’s seventh in total driving and 18th in greens in regulation on the PGA Tour this season and likes Firestone - fourth, 17th and fifth in the last three years.
Rickie Fowler, £3.5m
Another to keep his place after going close at the Quicken Loans. He was eighth here last year, second in 2011 and his stats this term suggest he’ll challenge again – 10th in total driving and 11th in the all-around ranking.
Billy Horschel, £2.6m
We’re approaching the FedEx Cup play-offs and, if last year’s anything to go by, that means Billy’s about to come good. He’s been 30th or better in his last six starts and the stats indicate he’ll go well here too. He’s 16th in total driving, 12th in greens in regulation and 24th in strokes-gained putting. Shot a final round 66 here in 2013.
Keegan Bradley, £2.2m
Missed the cut at The Open but was looking solid before that, making five straight. The man from Vermont is fourth in total driving and boasts an impressive record here – fourth, second and first in the last three years with seven of those 12 rounds a 67 or better.
Paul Casey, £1.4m
No missed cuts since withdrawing from the Players in May and narrowly lost out to Bubba Watson in a play-off at the Travelers a month ago. Has two previous top-10s here (2008 and 2006), is 12th in total driving and seventh in greens in regulation.
Kevin Kisner, £0.7m
Tough to find value in this high-class field but WGC debutant Kisner could be it. Missed the cut at the Open but made nine straight before that, including three runner-up finishes. He’s 28th in total driving and 25th in scoring average on Tour.