Bridgestone Invitational 2016
Round 4 - Back to back wins for Dustin Johnson
July 4, 2016
Dustin Johnson sailed off to the Bahamas for a private celebration of winning his first major championship at the U.S. Open.
He came roaring back at the Bridgestone Invitational.
In the toughest conditions at Firestone in nearly a decade, Johnson made it look easy Sunday when he closed with a 4-under 66 and rallied from a three-shot deficit against the world's No. 1 player to win another World Golf Championship.
He needed some help from Jason Day, who collapsed on the back nine. Johnson did his part, making a tough par save on the 15th hole when he got in range and pouring in a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole that made a bogey at the end meaningless.
Two starts, two victories, and now No. 2 in the world.
''It's the first time I've won two tournaments in a row. I mean, that's big,'' Johnson said after his one-shot victory over Scott Piercy.
''I'm excited and looking forward to going over to the British with the golf game in good form.''
He looks like the player to beat at Royal Troon with a frightening combination of driving, wedges and - finally - getting some putts to fall.
Day also was looking forward to the British Open, anything to take his mind off the finish. He had a one-shot lead and didn't hit a green in regulation over the last six holes. Far more damaging was the par-5 16th hole.
He tried to play it safe off the tee on the 655-yard hole and hooked a 3-wood into the trees. He blasted through the branches and across the fairway, getting a good break when a young fan picked up his ball because it allowed Day a free drop from behind a tree.
Then, he tried to squeeze a shot from 200 yards around the pond. It came up short and rode the collar of the bank into the water, leading to double bogey.
''I thought I had the right play,'' Day said. ''I was just trying to hit it up there to the left, get it just left of the bunker or just in the bunker there. ... Sometimes you take those risks and it doesn't pay off. So it happens, but I'm looking forward to the Open.''
Day rushed over to Johnson before signing his card to congratulate him.
Piercy nearly overcame back-to-back bogeys, but two good looks at birdies burned the edges on the 16th and 17th holes, and a birdie on the closing hole made the deficit one shot and made Piercy a runner-up for the second straight week. He tied for second behind Johnson in the U.S. Open at Oakmont.
''Inch here or inch there is kind of the difference between winning and finishing second or third,'' Piercy said.
Johnson joined Tiger Woods as the only players to capture three of the four World Golf Championships. He won the Cadillac Championship at Doral last year, and the HSBC Champions in Shanghai in the fall of 2013.
His 66-66 weekend at Firestone gave him a 6-under 274, matching the highest winning score at this World Golf Championship since Woods in 2005. Nine players finished under par, the fewest since Woods was the only player to break par in 2007.
Day closed with a 72 and tied for third with Jordan Spieth (67), Matt Kuchar (66) and Kevin Chappell (67).
Kuchar moved to No. 15 in the world, which could be important if he can stay in the top 15 and remain the sixth-highest American after next week, provided two Americans choose not to play in the Olympics. Bubba Watson is the only player of those eligible who has said for certain he will go to Rio.
Johnson was three shots behind when he rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the 13th hole, and followed with a wedge into 8 feet for birdie on the next hole.
Right when Day was getting into big trouble on the 16th, Johnson blasted a 9-iron out of the thick rough on the 17th to 15 feet and rolled in the birdie putt to take command.
Johnson has 11 career victories in his nine years on the PGA Tour.
''I feel great,'' he said. ''I feel like my game is where it has been all year. I just haven't been putting quite as well as I'd like. The last couple of weeks, I just putted a little better.''
He made it sound so simple. It looks that way, too. Key to his game was decided late last year to go to a fade off the tee instead of the draw he has leaned on for most of his career. He has that dialed in, and Johnson said when he's driving it as well as he has been, ''then I'm going to be very tough to beat.''
That certainly has been the case in his past two tournaments. He is building a home in south Florida with one room dedicated to golf memorabilia, such as his trophies.
''Hopefully,'' Johnson said, ''I've got to make it bigger.''
Round 3 - Jason Day and Scott Piercy share lead
July 3, 2016
Jason Day had no indication that Saturday at the Bridgestone Invitational would be such hard work until one swing.
His plan was to hit a draw with his driver, and the shot started out to the right. Trouble is, it kept going to the right until he was deep in the trees.
''That came out of nowhere,'' Day said. ''It wasn't just down the right. It was way right. I think it's more of a mental thing when it comes to those ones because when you're sharp and you're on your game and you're hitting it great, you don't miss them that far.''
It didn't help that he missed again on the next hole. And then the next one. Or that he hit only three fairways on a Firestone course that demands more.
Day still managed to turn that into a 1-under 69 to share the lead with Scott Piercy.
''I felt like Mr. Haverkamp out of 'Caddyshack' trying to find his golf ball and not knowing where the golf hole goes,'' Day said.
But he could find the bottom of the cup, including three par putts of at least 8 feet.
Piercy, coming off a runner-up finish in the U.S. Open two weeks ago at Oakmont, quickly tied Day for the lead with an eagle on the par-5 second hole and was flawless until the final hole. He had a one-shot lead until pulling his tee shot into the left rough, running a low shot through the green and into a back bunker, and having to scramble just to escape with a bogey and a 67.
They were at 5-under 205, the highest 54-hole score at this World Golf Championship since 2007.
Only nine players remained under par, and given the firm conditions of Firestone, Day believes all of them have a chance.
David Lingmerth of Sweden had a 69 and was one shot behind. The big move Saturday belonged to U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson, who hits it a long way and has a short memory.
After warming up on the range, Johnson said he was ready for a great round of golf, adding that ''I'm due.'' The smile suggested he did recall that he played decently at Oakmont two weeks ago.
Johnson was 5 under through 11 holes and closing in on the lead when he played the final seven holes in 1 over for a 66. Still, that was enough to get him to 2-under 208, three shots behind, along with Charl Schwartzel (67) and William McGirt (70).
Justin Thomas and Emiliano Grillo, buddies from their junior golf days, were another shot back. Thomas was in much better position until his wedge shot found the water on the par-5 16th, and his fifth shot after a penalty drop nearly went in for a par. Thomas then missed a 4-foot putt for double bogey.
The 16th also got the best of Jordan Spieth in a big way.
Spieth was starting to make putts when he debated whether to hit 3-wood on the 654-yard 16th hole, thinking he could keep it away from the water and try to make his birdie from the rough. He played it smartly instead by laying up, only it didn't quite work out that way.
His third shot came up just short and into the water. His next shot went over the green and he couldn't get up-and-down, making triple bogey.
Spieth said his caddie talked him out of the 3-wood, and he agreed.
''The big number only comes into play with a 3-wood,'' he said. ''It really was the right decision. It's just funny how we talked about it like that.''
Spieth had another 71 and was five shots behind.
Piercy had no such issues. He holed a bunker shot on the second hole for eagle and didn't have any stress in his round except for the 35-foot par putt he holed from the back fringe on the 14th hole. The final hole cost him the lead, but he is driving it well enough to think he has a strong chance to pick up his fourth career victory.
''I know I can do it,'' Piercy said. ''It's just doing it on a consistent basis like a Jordan or a Jason and those guys.''
Day opened with a 20-foot birdie putt. He added a short birdie on the sixth hole. A three-putt bogey on the seventh was a nuisance. And then came the drive on No. 8.
''The short game saved me, but mentally I was just trying to grind and grind and grind,'' Day said.
''Because I thought if I can just somehow get something in and give myself an opportunity for tomorrow ... it's very easy, hitting the positions I hit it today, to sit there and go, 'Well, it's just not my day or not my week' and kind of switch off a little bit. But didn't want to allow myself to switch off mentally.''
Round 2 - Jason Day takes over lead
July 2, 2016
Jason Day's plan for the Bridgestone Invitational was to get in the lead as quickly as possible and expand it from there.
He took care of the first part Friday.
With just enough breeze to make the fairways at Firestone seem even tighter, Day relied on his sharp short game and a pair of late birdies for a 1-under 69 that gave him a one-shot lead over David Lingmerth going into the weekend.
What irritated the world's No. 1 player was the way he finished.
Day had a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the final hole, and when his putter bumped up against the collar on the way back, he rapped it too hard and then missed the 6-foot par putt on the way back.
''I was very cross with myself when I was walking off,'' Day said. ''The great thing is that once I do silly things like that on 18, I soon forget about it, and I just need to start focusing on tomorrow's round.
''But I know that I'm putting good because I'm holing putts. And if I can give myself the opportunities, I'm hoping that I can stretch that lead over 54 holes, and then hopefully by 72 holes, I can stretch that lead even more.''
Day was at 4-under 136, matching Tiger Woods in 2005 for the highest 36-hole score to lead this World Golf Championship.
Lingmerth had a 67 that tied for the low score of the second round, where scoring was hampered by wind that felt as though it were coming out of different directions. He also made bogey on the 18th, and the Swede wasn't alone in dropping shots toward the end of his round.
William McGirt, who began the second round with a three-shot lead, stayed in front until he went over the par-5 16th with a wedge and made bogey, and then chopped up the 18th hole on his way to a double bogey for a 74. McGirt had a 74 and was two shots back at 138, along with Emiliano Grillo (71) and Scott Piercy (69).
''Trying to figure out the wind was impossible,'' McGirt said. ''It was a lot of down off the left with a touch of in off the right. I mean, who knows?''
Only nine players remained under par.
Justin Thomas hit a tee shot that caught the slope perfectly on the par-5 16th and didn't stop rolling until it was 414 yards away. He hit 5-iron just left off the green in a nasty lie and figured he had squandered a good scoring chance until his chip hit the pin and dropped for an eagle, the first one on the 16th since 2008.
''I can't hit another drive that hard,'' Thomas said.
He had a 69 and joined Jordan Spieth (71), Adam Scott (68) and Kevin Kisner (70) at 1-under 139.
Spieth is trying to pick up the pace, aware of criticism that he is playing too slow. Having spoken with his coach, he thinks it gives him an edge to step up and hit it.
''The quicker part actually helps me because then I just get up there and fire away,'' he said. ''The more I can do that, actually I think the better off - kind of gun slinging mentality, just to go up and hit the way I always have played.''
His only issue was keeping it in play, though he wasn't alone in those struggles.
U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson hit only six fairways in his round of 73 that put him at 2-over 142, though he's still only six shots behind.
Everyone is chasing Day, who is trying to join Woods and Phil Mickelson as the only players to win at least two World Golf Championships in the same year. Day won the Dell Match Play in March in dominant fashion, while his victories this year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship were a little closer.
It didn't feel like his best golf on Friday, though the conditions had something to do with that.
''I think over the next two days it's going to be very difficult for everyone,'' Day said. ''I would love to be able to give myself more opportunities, and if I can do that, hopefully I'm holding the trophy at the end of the week. The mentality won't change with regards to how tight it is. I've just got to try and get it done. Even if I don't have my best stuff, just find a way to get it done.''
He at least posed with one trophy on Friday, even though it will never be his.
The Cleveland Cavaliers had the gold NBA championship trophy on display at various spots around Firestone, and Day couldn't resist a photo with wife, Ellie, and the trophy.
''And LeBron James didn't come and tackle us, so that was a neat thing,'' he said.
His wife suffered a mild concussion late last year when they had courtside seats and James crashed into her going after a loose ball.
Round 1 - William McGirt opens 3 shot lead
July 1, 2016
William McGirt opened up a record three-shot opening round lead but world No. 1 Jason Day and No. 2 Jordan Spieth were also in the hunt at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Thursday.
McGirt set a tournament record for the largest first-round lead by firing a six-under 64 as he aims for his second win in Ohio in just four weeks.
McGirt won the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio in a playoff in early June for his first USPGA Tour victory.
Australia's Day shot a three-under 67 and is tied for second with Emiliano Grillo and Jimmy Walker at the Firestone Country Club course in Akron, Ohio.
Spieth is one stroke behind Day with a 68. He is tied with three others -- Anirban Lahiri, Charley Hoffman and Rickie Fowler.
Dustin Johnson, who is fresh off his first major championship win at the US Open, is also lurking near the top of the leaderboard after shooting an even-par 70. He is tied with Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and England's Paul Casey.
McGirt, who is making his World Golf Championship debut, made six birdies and finished off his round with a 45-foot par save.
Spieth made several nice par saves to remain close to the leaders. He hit just one green in regulation on the front nine.
Spieth then closed with four birdies. He needed just 21 putts during his round and chipped in for par at No. 8.
Johnson's round included two birdies and one bogey. Johnson is tied with Billy Hurley, who won the Quicken Loans National tournament last week.
Defending champion Shane Lowry, who finished in a tie for second at the US Open two weeks ago, stumbled to a six-over 78.