They aren’t majors, but the World Golf Championships sure are fun.
Thursday marks the beginning of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which features 48 of top 50 players in the world. – only Rory McIlroy and Chris Kirk will be absent at Firestone. It’s also the final tune up before next week’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
Also absent from the field is Tiger Woods, who owns this event – he’s won it a ridiculous eight times. But Tiger, currently ranked 262nd in the world, isn’t anywhere close to earning an invite.
With such a deep and talented field, here’s a look at some of the best pairings to keep an eye on.
Troy Merritt and Bernd Wiesberger, 9:36 a.m. Thursday, 1:25 p.m. Friday
It will be interesting to see how Merritt, who won his first ever PGA Tour event at last week’s Quicken Loans National, responds this week playing in his first ever world championship. The 29-year-old Boise native had previously gone 0-95 in his professional career. Wiesberger is ranked 25th in the world, and won the Alstom Open de France just last month.
Zach Johnson and Jordan Spieth, 2:15 p.m. Thursday, 10:25 a.m. Friday
Only two players have won major championships this year – Zach Johnson and Jordan Spieth. So maybe it’s just a big coincidence the two are playing together on Thursday afternoon. Maybe they’ll bring the Claret Jug with them?
Charl Schwartzel and Marc Leishman, 10:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:55 p.m. Friday
Let’s hope Leishman isn’t still recovering from his brutal playoff loss at the British Open. The 31-year-old Australian played remarkably well at St. Andrews, it’s just that Zach Johnson played better. Schwartzel meanwhile was a non-factor on The Old Course, but he did finish 7th at the U.S. Open this year and finished T4 at Firestone last year.
Jason Day and Rickie Fowler, 10:25 a.m. Thursday, 2:15 p.m. Friday
Two of the hottest players in golf at the moment are Jason Day and Rickie Fowler. Day is coming off a win at the RBC Canadian Open, and Fowler just finished second last week at the Quicken Loans National. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if one of these two took the whole thing this week.
Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson, 10:35 a.m. Thursday, 2:25 p.m. Friday
Kudos to the chaps that run the WGC-Bridgestone for pairing the two longest hitters on tour together. Teeing off right behind Day and Fowler, the pairing of Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson should be a lot of fun to watch. This is DJ’s first tournament since his awful weekend at St. Andrews. The 31-year-old did win the WGC-Cadillac Championship earlier this year. Watson is ranked third in the world and won the Travelers Championship at the end of June.
Adam Scott and Martin Kaymer, 10:45 a.m. Thursday, 2:35 p.m. Friday
Adam Scott looks like the Adam Scott we’re used to seeing, now that caddie Steve Williams is back on the bag. The 35-year-old has back-to-back top 10 finishes at the U.S and British Opens. He’s finished in the top 10 four times at this event, including a win back in 2011. Kaymer on the other hand has looked pretty bad this year. He missed the cut at the Masters and U.S. Open, and he just hasn’t looked like himself.
Sergio Garcia and Patrick Reed, 10:55 a.m. Thursday, 2:45 p.m. Friday
A stellar pairing between two of the most fierce competitors on tour. Sergio finished T6 at St. Andrews, and comes into this week’s action in good form. The 35-year-old finished runner up last year in this event to Rory McIlroy. After a hot start to the year when he won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Reed has cooled off as the weathers heated up. His best finish at a major this year was a T14 at Chambers Bay.
Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose, 2:25 p.m. Thursday, 10:35 a.m. Friday
Some of these pairings write themselves, like this one between the two Masters runners-up. Rose has been on his game lately with three Top 10s in his last four PGA Tour tournaments. Mickelson gets back into the action in his first event since his Sunday charge at the British Open. Lefty has two career World Golf Championship wins.