The final World Golf Championship event of the 2016/2017 season is underway this week, as an elite field of 76 international players takes center stage in Akron for the WGC Invitational at Firestone.
It’s a stacked field this week with all of the top 10 players in the FedExCup standings and 49 of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking present and looking to take home the prestigious Gary Player Trophy.
Renowned Firestone Country Club plays host again, challenging players with the long, winding, tree-lined fairways and undulating, speedy greens on its South Course. The par-70, 7,400-yard layout is in immaculate condition this week, offering a demanding but fair test of golf.
Headlining the field this week is Titleist Brand Ambassador Jordan Spieth (Pro V1x), playing for the first time since his dramatic win at this year's Open Championship. Spieth showed solid form in his opening round, carding a 3-under-par 67.
"Overall, very pleased," Spieth said. "I scrambled really well and made a couple long putts back-to-back in the middle of the round that put us at 3 (under-par), when I felt like I played a 1- or 2-under round."
Spieth sank a 32-footer for birdie on No. 5 and followed up with a 51-footer for birdie on No. 6, calling to mind his amazing putting down the stretch at Royal Birkdale. Jordan gave some insight in his approach on long putts.
"I'm reading them in three pieces and I have a really good process in the way that I read them in order to hit them with the right speed. So I get somewhere near the right line - obviously it's a bit of luck for it to go in from that distance, there's so many other factors - but you hit it with the right pace somewhere near the right line and you're going to scare the hole. When my pace starts to feel good, when I get that dialed in, that's when they start to go in."
When asked how he planned to put the excitement of his Open Championship win behind him, Spieth insisted that, on the contrary, he wanted to embrace the victory and that he planned to "continue the celebration as long as I can, until we wear it out."
"Obviously," he added, "the focus is back on golf this week. Trying to put together four rounds where I can continue to improve each round as we head into the year's last major. I've got the PGA Championship, which I haven't won and it's the one that's on the radar now so, pretty excited about the opportunities in these next two (weeks)."
Good luck to Jordan and good luck to all of #TeamTitleist this week!
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TITLEIST BY THE NUMBERS
This week at the WGC Invitational at Firestone, Titleist is once again the overwhelming golf ball choice, with 63% of players in the limited field of 76 trusting a Titleist Pro V1 or Pro V1x golf ball, more than four times the nearest competitor with 13% and more than all competitors combined.
Titleist was also the top choice among players in the hybrids category (7) as well as the irons category (T1) with 15 sets in play. Vokey Design Wedges also topped the approach, sand and lob wedge (71) category and Scotty Cameron putters were the top choice among players with 27 putters in play.
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- Titleist golf ball loyalist Lee Westwood (Pro V1x) is making his 58th appearance in a WGC event this week, most of any player.
- Only three players have won the WGC Invitational at Firestone in wire-to-wire fashion, including Titleist golf ball loyalist Stewart Cink (Pro V1x/2004) and Titleist Brand Ambassador Adam Scott (Pro V1/2011).
- No player managed to record four sub-70 rounds at last year’s WGC Invitational at Firestone.
- Firestone CC boasts 54 holes of championship-caliber golf. It has hosted a tournament annually since 1954, when the Rubber City Open first was contested on the South Course.
- In 1915, tire and rubber magnate Harvey Firestone purchased 1,000 acres of farmland south of his Firestone Tire and Rubber Company factory as part of a plan to provide his employees and their families houses, schools, churches and a park. In 1929, Firestone’s South Course was opened. Bert Way, an English golf professional who finished second in the 1899 U.S. Open, designed the taxing layout. Sixteen holes run north and south. Only the fifth and sixth holes play east-west.
- In 1959 Robert Trent Jones redesigned the South Course for the 1960 PGA Championship. He built seven new tees and added more than 50 bunkers and other features intended to make the course more demanding. He also lengthened it from 6,620 yards to 7,165 yards.
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PLAYERS TO WATCH THIS WEEK:
- Titleist Brand Ambassador Jordan Spieth (Pro V1x) took the No. 1 position in the FedExCup standings with his victory at The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
Spieth, who turned 24 on July 27, is only the second player in history to win three legs of the grand slam before the age of 24. He's making fourth appearance at the WGC Invitational at Firestone (49/2014, T10/2015, T3/2016) and his T3 at last year’s event is his best result in 14 WGC appearances. His previous best was T5 at the 2014 Dell Technologies Match Play.
- Titleist golf ball loyalist Tommy Fleetwood (Pro V1) will make his eighth appearance in a World Golf Championships event, but his first at the WGC Invitational at Firestone . He finished T5 at the 2015 Dell Technologies Match Play and runner-up at this year’s Mexico Championship. Fleetwood, who finished T4 at this year’s U.S. Open, is currently No. 1 in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings and has four career victories on the European Tour..
- Titleist Brand Ambassador Adam Scott (Pro V1) has two World Golf Championships victories (2011 WGC Invitational at Firestone, 2016 Mexico Championship) and currently stands No. 66 in the FedExCup standings. Along with his win in 2011, Scott has four additional top-10 results in 14 starts at the WGC Invitational at Firestone (T10/2016, T8/2014, T9/2010, T10/2006).
- Titleist golf ball loyalist Branden Grace (Pro V1x) became the first player in major championship history to record a round of 62, shooting the score in the third round at Royal Birkdale in this year’s Open Championship. He eventually finished T6, his best finish on the PGA TOUR this season.Grace’s T10 at last year’s tournament is best result in five starts at Firestone CC.
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Ideal golf weather greeted players this week in Akron.
Some great scrambling from Jordan Spieth in Round 1.
And a 51-foot bomb from Jordan on No. 6.
Also on the PGA Tour this week, the Barracuda Championship. Titleist Brand Ambassador Greg Chalmers (Pro V1) is defending his title this week in Reno, NV.
Also playing at Montreaux GC this week, Titleist Brand Ambassador Zac Blair (Pro V1).
Back at Firestone, a great tradition being carried on by Titleist golf ball loyalist Rickie Fowler (Pro V1).
Flashback: Adam Scott (Pro V1) played the difficult 18th hole at Firestone perfectly en route to his 2011 victory.
Titleist Brand Ambassador Justin Thomas (Pro V1x) currently sits at No. 4 in FedExCup standings. He provided the inspiration for a new Scotty Cameron putter model that launched this week - the Futura 5.5M mallet.
This week Justin shared some great power keys with GOLF Magazine.
Looking forward to some great weekend action from Akron!