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WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Fowler looks hot for Firestone swansong

Firestone hosts the 73-man field WGC-Bridgestone Invitational for the last time this week as part of the PGA Tour's revamped schedule for 2019.

Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama shot the round of his life as a course-record-equalling nine-under-par 61 gave him a five-shot victory over Zach Johnson for the biggest win of his career.

The Japanese star arrives in Ohio at 40/1 to successfully defend his title on the back of a couple of missed cuts at the Scottish Open and The Open.

Predictably, 2016 champion and world number one Dustin Johnson is the 7/1 favourite having won his third tournament of the season at last week's Canadian Open.

A quick roll call of previous winners at this tight 7,400-yard par-70 tree-lined-course tells us that there are usually no surprises and that the champion is traditionally a high-quality player.

Tiger Woods has won this event eight times, while Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Shane Lowry have all been triumphant here in the last seven years.

With that in mind we've picked out a couple of players at the top end of the market and two mid-range-priced golfers that can launch a challenge this week starting with Rickie Fowler at 20/1.

The American has finished 9-10-10-8 in the last four years at Firestone and although he was never in contention at Carnoustie, he still finished inside the top 30 having been runner-up at the Scottish Open.

With encouraging greens in regulation statistics (69.14%), Fowler is the headline tip in our WGC-Bridgestone Invitational betting preview.

Next up is another player who likes it around Akron and also showed encouraging signs of a return to form in Scotland two weeks ago.

Jordan Spieth has never been outside the top 13 in his last three visits and shared the lead at The Open heading into the final round but his hopes of successfully defending his title disappeared with a closing 76.

Still, Spieth is nailing greens for fun and his top 10 at The Open suggests his best form is just around the corner so he joins our plan at 18/1.

Paul Casey also makes the cut at 40/1 despite having stayed in Europe to play in Hamburg where a closing 73 wrecked his chances of a first win on the continent since the KLM Open in 2014.

Casey is hitting it long and straight, finding greens and is just outside the top 30 for strokes gained: putting. As long as his body can take the strain, Casey should be in the mix as should Kevin Chappell who made a surprising return to form at Carnoustie where he was 13th.

The American has a decent record at Firestone, finishing 13-3 in the last two renewals, and as one of the best ball strikers in the business he could be a contender at 66/1 this week.

We're taking a chance on Gary Woodland at 125/1 in our final free golf tip for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Woodland is an excellent ball-striker and seventh for finding greens in regulation, skill sets which should stand the 34-year-old American in good stead this week.

His Firestone record hardly leaps off the page but he was inside the top 20 in 2014 and made an encouraging return to form with 22nd at last week's Canadian Open.

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Betting Tips

Don't forget that if your player wins a PGA Tour event with a bet placed pre-tournament and he trades at a bigger price over the first two rounds, you will get the bigger price.

Warren Barner
@warren_barner in Golf