WGC-Bridgestone Will Tell Us the State of Tiger Woods' Game for the Rest of 2014

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WGC-Bridgestone Will Tell Us the State of Tiger Woods' Game for the Rest of 2014
PHIL LONG/Associated Press
Tiger Woods at 2013 Bridgetone

Tiger Woods has eight victories at Firestone Country Club, host of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. For some professionals, that's more than they can amass in a career. That means Firestone is a great measure of the state of Woods' game.

Is he on? Is he ready? Is he still struggling to return to form? Firestone will tell us.

It was at Firestone that Woods tied Jose Maria Olazabal's course record of 61 back in 2000. He also broke Olazabal's tournament record that same year, setting a mark of 259 over four rounds.

Last year, Woods tied his own 61 in the second round on the way to his fifth victory of the season.

Even though he has not played to his desired level yet in 2014, Woods may have such good memories at Firestone that he will be able to notch his first victory since surgery.

He won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in 1999-01, 2005-2007, 2009 and 2013. He's had so much success there that, in an ordinary year, he should probably give every player in the field a five-shot advantage just to make it sporting.

Last year, Woods captured his 79th career PGA Tour title at Firestone, leaving him just three victories short of tying Sam Snead's all-time record of 82. He has won in every way imaginable.

In his first win, in 1999, he defeated Phil Mickelson by a shot. It was his fourth appearance.

Then, he backed it up with a tournament-record score of 21-under in 2000. That was the year he won in near darkness.

In 2001, he defeated Jim Furyk in a memorable seven-hole playoff, which included Furyk's hole-out at the 18th for a par to keep the playoff going. Rain started coming down on the sixth playoff hole, which was the 17th.

Finally, the par-versus-par duel ended when Furyk shot a bogey at the 18th and Woods birdied.

Woods has won with a bizarre ruling.

In 2006, Woods somehow flew a shot over the clubhouse. He was on the ninth hole, playing a 9-iron and intended to hit it 167 yards. To say he caught a flyer is an understatement. CBS cameras saw it hit the roof. Then, the ball disappeared. Later, it was determined that someone had pocketed the ball.

Woods was thus given relief from the clubhouse.

At some courses, the clubhouse is in play. At the Bob Hope Classic, Gary Hallberg famously hit a shot from the roof of the Indian Wells clubhouse. Hallberg elected to play from the roof because the lie was better than his other option.

After the clubhouse incident, Woods went on to defeat Stewart Cink in a playoff.

Last year, Woods bettered defending champ Keegan Bradley by seven shots, marking the 11th time Woods had won a PGA Tour event by at least that many strokes. It was victory No. 79. This week, he's looking to make it 80.

It's worth noting that Snead won his 82nd trophy when he was 47. Woods is currently 38, looking toward 39 at year's end.

In a rather all-or-nothing kind of stat, Woods has never finished second there. He has eight victories in 14 starts at Firestone, which is better than 50 percentan amazing total.

Regardless of past results, by Sunday, we will know how far back Woods really is after surgery. If he should somehow win, then look out for him at the PGA Championship. If he finishes in the middle of the pack, it may be another season before we see the Tiger Woods every fan expects.

 

Kathy Bissell is a golf writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour, R&A or PGA of America.

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