Sobel: Big Names, Big Value Highlight Leaderboard at WGC-Bridgestone

Sobel: Big Names, Big Value Highlight Leaderboard at WGC-Bridgestone article feature image

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports, Pictured: Justin Thomas

  • As is often the case in limited-field WGC events, there are plenty of big names in contention this weekend at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
  • Justin Thomas is in a three-way tie for the lead and is currently favored to win the event.
  • Some familiar names offer significant value in various spots on the leaderboard.

AKRON, Ohio – What’s the best thing about limited-field WGC events?

If you guessed that golf writers get to stay out late and sleep in each morning, you get partial credit.

The real answer I was looking for is this: With only elite-level players in the field, it’s nearly impossible to not have a great leaderboard over the weekend.

This week’s edition of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational is no different. With two rounds down and two to go, a bevy of big-name guys are lurking in contention, which should lead to a very intriguing weekend in the swan song at Firestone.

Let’s get right to 10 takeaways entering Saturday’s third round.

1. On Wednesday, Justin Thomas sat in the interview room and lamented his lack of success this year. “It feels like I haven’t won in forever,” he said. Yes, the last time was wayyyy back in … February. It’s probably a good sign when a guy doesn’t win for five months and feels like he’s in a drought. Tied at the top alongside Ian Poulter and Tommy Fleetwood, JT is now the favorite to win at +225 after entering the week undervalued at +3000 in some markets. Hope you jumped on early, because that “drought” might end soon.

2. If I can’t take Thomas, my pick to win this weekend is Rory McIlroy (+800). He opened 65-67 and, quite frankly, his wedge-and-putter game has looked atrocious at times. Either that means he’s teetering on the brink of falling off the pace or just needs to tighten up and he’ll start going even lower. Put me down for the latter.

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3. Following his second round, McIlroy was asked if he feels like his game is in a similar place to where it was four years ago when he won this tourney then followed up with a PGA Championship win the next week. “I’m close,” he said. “I’m not quite swinging it as good as I was back then and I’m working on trying to get it back to there, [but] I feel like I’m close to being as good as I was in ’14.”

4. In the opening round, Tiger Woods hit 7-of-14 fairways and 13-of-18 greens in regulation; in the second round, Woods hit 7-of-14 fairways and 13-of-18 greens in regulation. Yup, same ball-striking numbers, but he shot 66 the first day and 68 the second. So, when did he feel better? “I felt better with my game than I did yesterday,” Woods (+725) said after the second round. “I just didn’t hit the putts hard enough, but if I did, I would have easily shot 4-5 under par.”

Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

5. This feels like the requisite time to remind you that Woods leads the PGA Tour in third-round scoring average this season. If you’re hoping for a low one on Saturday, history is on your side. Speaking of history, it’s been exactly five years to the week since Woods’ last victory. Another win here, in the Firestone finale, would be some nice symmetry.

6. Jon Rahm walked off the course early Friday afternoon following an even-par 70 and was mumbling to himself in Spanish the entire way. I can’t translate, but I can tell you the look on his face was pure frustration. Even so, at 6-under going into the weekend, I still think Rahm (+2000) could provide some nice value. And yes, I really like him for next week’s PGA.

7. I’ve been really impressed by Luke List (+4500) on a few different occasions this year, but these past two days are right up there. Sure, he’s still chasing his initial PGA Tour victory, but hanging with the guys on this big-boy leaderboard should give him some great vibes moving forward. I don’t know whether he’s playing the Wyndham Championship, but that could be a smart pick for his elusive first win.

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8. Phil Mickelson posted a 1-under 69 on Friday, then declined to speak with the media. Which is completely fine, because he did plenty of talking the day before. What I would’ve preferred, though, is if Lefty simply told us he’d speak after the round through interpretive dance.

9. Look, I don’t think Mickelson, tied for 16th and six shots off the pace entering the weekend, is going to win. But I also don’t think I want to let a +13000 number float by without nibbling on it just a little. Low risk for high reward, which isn’t exactly his game, but could be yours.

10. I mean, really, Mickelson is twice the price of Paul Casey (+6500) despite being four strokes better on the leaderboard. If you’re new to the golf betting game and wondering why we keep talking about value, well, there’s a pretty strong example of it right there.

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