The PGA Tour heads to Akron, Ohio, for the 38th tournament of the season and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the final event before the year’s last major.
It’s the last chance for the players to tune up for the PGA Championship, and the weather should be perfect. There’s a slight chance for rain on the weekend, but overall the cloud cover should keep temperatures around 70.
And that should make the South Course at Firestone rather tame this week.
Tiger Woods is the defending champion after winning by seven shots last year to claim his eighth tournament title over the South Course.
It’s hard to ignore Woods’ track record at the course. But he’s hasn’t been the same player this year, so here are five others to keep an eye on:
5. Henrik Stenson
Best finish in 2014: Tied for fourth in U.S. Open.
Reason to watch: Ran into a ridiculous week against Woods last year to finish runner-up and has been playing stellar golf in recent weeks, four straight top 10s. His driving accuracy and iron play bode well for him scoring at Firestone.
4. Matt Kuchar
Best finish in 2014: Won the Franklin Templeton Shootout.
Reason to watch: It was beginning to look like he was going to slump a bit – OK, finishing outside the top 10 is not really a slump, but you get it – until he ended a five-tournament non-top 10 drought by finishing in a tie for fourth last week in Canada. He leads the Tour in top 10s and has two in the past four years at the Bridgestone.
3. Rickie Fowler
Best finish in 2014: Second at U.S. Open and British Open.
Reason to watch: He’s been right there in the biggest tournaments of the year, and it’s about time he wins one of them. It could happen this week or he could come away with his first major score next week at Valhalla. He was second at the U.S. Open and British Open and scored a T2 here in 2011.
2. Jim Furyk
Best finish in 2014: Second at the Wells Fargo Championship; The Players Championship and the RBC Canadian Open.
Reason to watch: It’s been four years since he has won a tournament, but he’s playing as well as anyone in the world. He finished fourth at Hoylake and second last week at the Canadian Open, a fourth top-five finish in his last seven starts. He’s fifth in scoring average and has finished in the top 10 at the Bridgestone three times in four years.
1. Rory McIlroy
Best finish in 2014: Won the British Open.
Reason to watch: If you wonder why he’s tops to watch this week, you obviously forgot how dominant he was in winning the British Open at Hoylake. He has three of four majors, so he might as well add a WGC. He’s been close three times in five starts at Bridgestone with a T5 in ’12, T6 in ’11 and T 9 in ’10. He should continue his hot play and head to Louisville as the overwhelming favorite.