The Bridgestone Invitational kicks off what will be an intense two weeks of golf. This World Golf Championship features a purse of over $8 million, and the world's top golfers will be battling it out.
Still, while a win at the Bridgestone Invitational is a nice piece for anyone's resume, it is hard for this event to be viewed as anything but a tuneup for the following week's PGA Championship.
Golfers will want to make sure they've got their games rolling in the right direction as they hit the year's final major, and the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio is the perfect place to do just that.
This is going to be a far easier task for some. In the following slides, I'll highlight three golfers who simply hope to maintain their hot hands and three golfers who need quick reversals of recent fortunes.
All stats via PGATour.com.
Graeme McDowell won the RBC Heritage and has been awful ever since. Well, that's not entirely true. He did win the Alstom Open de France on the European Tour in early July, but that tournament was the clear outlier during his recent play.
In his PGA starts since his win, McDowell missed the cut at The Players Championship and the U.S. Open. Then, he struggled to a 58th at the British Open and a 74th at the Canadian Open last week.
McDowell doesn't have much power off the tee, so it is important he is accurate. He hasn't been.
In his last three PGA starts, McDowell hasn't hit more than 68 percent of his fairways. Also, while he is typically a solid putter, he's been struggling. Last week, he finished the Canadian Open at minus-2.001 strokes gained putting.
Zach Johnson's in-season turnaround has been impressive. Entering this year off a successful 2012, Johnson was playing well below his standards.
Through the Wells Fargo Championship in early May, Johnson had made 11 PGA starts. Johnson's highest finish was a tie for 18th, and that was in his first start of the year. He also had three missed cuts in that span.
He is poised for a big close to the year now.
Johnson will enter this event with a second in the John Deere Classic and a sixth at the British Open in his last two starts. He also had a third-place finish at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at the end of May.
In his resurgence, Johnson has done a better job of controlling his ball off the tee, and he has begun to regain his masterful touch with the putter.
Luke Donald looked primed to win his first major at the U.S. Open. However, after a 75 in the final round, he finished tied for eighth.
Maybe the missed opportunity has haunted him, because he's been terrible since. Donald has made two PGA starts since the U.S. Open, and he's missed the cut in both. One of those came at the British Open, and the other was last week at the Canadian Open. He also had a 42nd in the Alstom Open de France.
In this poor stretch, Donald hasn't hit greater than 58 percent of his fairways, and his typically solid short game has been failing him.
It has been an up-and-down year for the former No. 1. He has yet to pick up a win on either the PGA or European Tour. Still, I wouldn't be surprised to see this talented golfer put it all together before the end of the season.
I think it is safe to say Brandt Snedeker has rounded back into form since returning from his rib injury.
Upon first returning to action, Snedeker struggled to regain his consistency. That culminated with a missed cut at the St. Jude Classic.
He's been on a solid upswing since. In his four starts since his missed cut at the St. Jude, Snedeker has a 17th at the U.S. Open, an eighth at the AT&T National, an 11th at the British Open and a win at the Canadian Open last week.
Snedeker is struggling with his accuracy off the tee, but he has still managed to do a nice job of hitting greens in regulation, and he is putting as well as ever.
Things are not going well for Rory McIlroy on the course. He is still looking for his first win of the year, and he is showing no signs of breaking out of his slump.
McIlroy looked like he was about to turn his struggles around, and he finished The Players Championship in eighth. He's been going in the wrong direction since.
He was 57th at the Memorial and 41st at the U.S. Open, and he missed the cut at the British Open. He also had a 96th in a European Tour start at the Irish Open in that span.
Not much is going right for McIlroy. He can't control his ball off the tee or on approach shots, and his flat iron is failing him.
McIlroy has proven in the past he can snap out of cold streaks in a flash, but I still wouldn't expect him to break out of this nasty funk anytime soon.
In a career that would land him in the Hall of Fame if he retired today, Phil Mickelson would be hard pressed to find a stretch of golf where he is playing better than he is right now.
Mickelson missed the cut at the Players Championship in May. Since, he's made four PGA starts. He did suffer another missed cut, which came at the Greenbrier Classic, but I doubt he is dwelling on that.
He was second at the St. Jude Classic, and then he had his painful runner-up finish at the U.S. Open. As I'm sure you noticed, Lefty was able to turn that U.S. Open heartbreak into a major championship at the British Open.
As if that wasn't enough success, Mickelson won a European start at the Scottish Open the week before the British Open.
Lefty has used solid putting to help fuel him to this hot streak. Even more importantly, he has been putting himself in great position off the tee.
For the season, Mickelson is hitting 56.18 percent of his fairways. He has hit at least 63 percent of his fairways in each of his last four PGA starts.