It’s not a Major, but the WGC Bridgestone certainly draws like one every year in Akron, Ohio, where its prize money counts as official earnings on both the PGA and European Tours.
It’s also as good a place as any for Tiger Woods, down to No. 10 in the world, to snap out of his season-long slump. Woods is the tournament’s defending champion, and has won the title here a staggering eight times in the tournament’s 15-year history.
It will be Woods’ first action since finishing 69th at the Open Championship in Hoylake. Also back for the first time since the third Major is Rory McIlroy, who won the title, his third Major.
With a smaller field eligible, the first rounds will be in pairs, not trios, with American Matt Every and South Africa’s Branden Grace kicking things off on the front nine at 9:10 a.m. on the Firestone Country Club South Course Thusrday, while American Patrick Reed and Australian John Senden start at the same time on the back nine.
RBC Canadian Open champion Tim Clark is up at 9:20 a.m., paired with Angel Cabrera on the front nine.
The tournament has done its best of matching Americans with foreign players early on in an impressive display of camaraderie, and as an appreciation of fans who rarely get to see international players, except on television.
At 10:10 a.m., FedExCup leader Jimmy Walker tees off with the UK’s Lee Westwood on the front nine, while the US’ Jordan Spieth is matched with France’s Victor Dubuisson on the back. McIlroy draws American Matt Kuchar.
At 10:30 a.m., old pros Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson tee off together, while Masters champion Bubba Watson draws No. 1 Adam Scott; and Woods is paired with US Open winner Martin Kaymer.