Day 1 of the 2014 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational is officially underway, and Firestone Country Club is already yielding some low numbers thanks to some favorable scoring conditions—the weather in Akron, Ohio, is sunny and in the upper 70s with minimal winds.
Ryan Moore was the first player to take advantage of the course, shooting a five-under 65 to enter the clubhouse as the day's early leader. However, many players are still on the course with some great chances to go low as well.
Here's a look at the tournament's current leaderboard:
Not every golfer has set foot on the course, as afternoon tee times are ongoing through 2:30 p.m. ET. One notable player to keep an eye on late in the day is Tiger Woods—an eight-time winner of this tournament looking to right the ship after back surgery.
There's a bevy of talent in this year's field, with most of golf's top-ranked players participating in the tournament.
So, who's poised to come away with the victory? Let's predict how the top players at this year's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational are likely to fare.
|2014 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Notable Predictions|
|MC||Jordan Spieth||Missed Cut|
|MC||Henrik Stenson||Missed Cut|
|Sean O'Donnell's Predictions|
Rory McIlroy does it again.
The world's No. 2 player follows up his Open Championship victory with another one at Firestone.
McIlroy has been on an absolute tear lately, and his showing at Royal Liverpool proved that he's in complete control of his game. During a press conference, via Bob Harig of ESPN.com, McIlroy spoke of his desire to win from a young age.
He said, "I didn't grow up wanting to lead a normal life. I grew up wanting to win major championships."
There's more at stake this week for McIlroy than just another win, as PGA Tour noted in this tweet:
He's been great under pressure lately. Expect him to deliver in a big way.
Charl Schwartzel may only be the world's No. 22-ranked player, but when he gets on a hot streak, he can do some damage—as he proved in 2011 when he won the Masters.
Well, he's off to a great start at Firestone on Thursday, recording four consecutive birdies on his front nine. Here's a look at one of those birdies thanks to a phenomenal approach from the rough:
If Schwartzel keeps that up, his name won't disappear from the leaderboard.
It's difficult to bet against Matt Kuchar in Akron.
The world's No. 6-ranked golfer notched one win this year at the RBC Heritage, and he also recorded a runner-up finish at the Shell Houston Open to go along with seven top-10 performances.
He'll be well in the mix Sunday.
Tiger Woods enters the tournament looking for his ninth WGC-Bridgestone title; however, he'll settle with a top-10 finish.
He didn't appear to be near his top form at Royal Liverpool, as the former world No. 1 barely made the cut and finished in 69th place after a dreadful weekend. A familiar course will help him rebound from that showing.
ESPN Stats & Info tweeted about his past success at Firestone:
He simply doesn't have what it takes to get another win just yet, though.
Phil Mickelson is another high-profile golfer who is facing a severe drop in performance of late. Over his last 15 tournaments, Lefty has failed to earn a top-10 finish and has missed three cuts in the process. Over that span, his world golf ranking plummeted from No. 4 to No. 13.
Mickelson has a short game capable of keeping him in contention. However, a scoring average of 70.377 on the PGA Tour this season doesn't bode well for his chances to go low enough to compete at Firestone.