Dustin Johnson - DJ has course form conundrum
He's one of the past course winners lining up this week but Johnson's battling win with an unusually high 6-under is his only top 10 in eight appearances. It came just a couple of weeks after he'd won the US Open so he was riding a huge wave at the time. That said, he's in excellent nick again after taking victory in Canada last time and his MC at Carnoustie is very much the outlier in his recent record.
Last four events: 1-MC-3-1
Course form: 17-1-53-33-19-48-15-22
Ohio form: 8-17-MC-1-3-53-13-46-33-MC
Last 50 starts - Win: 20%, Top 5: 40%, Top 10: 58%
Rory McIlroy - Ohio a happy hunting ground
Rory is a big fan of Firestone and nearby Muirfield Village (Memorial) and boasts a win and eight further top 10s in his last 13 starts across the two Ohio tracks. "I think this is one of the best courses we play all year," said Rory in 2014. "It's a course that I've done pretty well on before and I feel comfortable on." He won that year and has made the top 10 in five of his last six visits. A second place at Carnoustie without being at his best suggests he can thrive again at Firestone.
Last four events: 2-28-12-MC
Course form: 5-1-27-5-6-9-68
Ohio form: 8-5-4-1-15-27-57-5-MC-6-5-9-10
Last 50 starts - Win: 10%, Top 5: 38%, Top 10: 48%
Tiger Woods - ready to catch Fire again?
Woods has an astonishing record here with eight wins and if he plays like he did for the first three-and-a-half days at Carnoustie, No.9 could be on the cards. While Tiger is still struggling to recapture the winning habit, getting into contention isn't a problem and he's had three top fives this season, T6 at The Open and also a tied 11th and a tied 12th. Speaking in May, Tiger said: "One of my goals is to get into Akron one last time before we leave there (it moves to Memphis next year)." He achieved it by the skin of his teeth, just edging up to 50th in the world rankings thanks to his good Open show, and he has the form to make an impact again.
Last four events: 6-4-MC-23
Course form: WD-1-8-37-78-1-1-1-1-2-4-1-1-1-5-3
Ohio form: 23-71-WD-1-65-8-1-37-78-19
Last 50 starts - Win: 10%, Top 5: 22%, Top 10: 28%
Justin Rose - Englishman's game is blooming
"I think it was 15 strokes gained over the field this week tee to green," said Rose at Firestone in 2015 when he finished third. He didn't win that time due to losing four strokes with the putter but that's been his big area of improvement. Rose heads to Ohio ranked 7th for SG: Putting this season and also with a big spring in his step after coming from the cut-line to finish tied second at the Open Championship. The Englishman has four top fives here, a great record at Memorial too and everything points to a huge week.
Last four events: 2-9-10-6
Course form: 63-46-3-4-17-5-33-19-29-27-2-33
Ohio form: 6-63-46-3-2-4-MC-17-8-5
Last 50 starts - Win: 10%, Top 5: 32%, Top 10: 48%
Jordan Spieth - hard to trust in recent months
Spieth looked to have lined all his ducks in a row again at a major when seemingly in great position to defend the Claret Jug at Carnoustie but the flaws that have hurt him in recent months were exposed and the American had to settle for T9. That was his first top 10 since the US Masters so he's still a little hard to trust. At Firestone he has a top five, a top 10 and a T13 the last three years ago it's a pretty good course for him... if he's on his game.
Last four events: 9-42-MC-MC
Course form: 13-3-10-49
Ohio form: MC-13-13-3-57-10-3-49-19-63
Last 50 starts - Win: 8%, Top 5: 24%, Top 10: 44%
Rickie Fowler - course horse has right profile
Fowler was runner-up at Firestone on just his second appearance and has reeled off four straight top 10s since 2014 so he's one to look closely at in these markets. Building in form at Memorial and it's six top 10s in eight starts in Ohio so something clearly works on these tree-lined courses with bentgrass greens. His take on the layout? "This is probably one of the best courses we play throughout the year. It puts some pressure on all parts of your game. So it's a very, very good test." Fowler is fifth on the All-Around ranking.
Last four events: 28-6-12-20
Course form: 9-10-10-8-21-60-2-33
Ohio form: 8-9-2-10-MC-10-MC-8-MC-21
Last 50 starts - Win: 2%, Top 5: 22%, Top 10: 36%
Jason Day - iron play a worry for Aussie
Day lives in Ohio but, for some reason, often fails to find his best there. At least he's played well here a couple of times (a third and a fourth) in his eight starts and T12 at the Travelers and T17 at Carnoustie on his last two starts suggest he's not far away from another peak. The concern is his iron play as he heads to Firestone ranked 141st for greens in regulation.
Last four events: 17-12-MC-44
Course form: 24-3-12-WD-53-29-4-22
Ohio form: 44-24-15-3-27-12-MC-WD-37-53
Last 50 starts - Win: 8%, Top 5: 28%, Top 10: 36%
Francesco Molinari - Open champ in cruise control
Ironically, had Molinari finished runner-up at Carnoustie we'd probably expect him to continue his hot play here. Because he had the thunderclap moment of becoming the first Italian to win The Open, we now wonder if he'll suffer mental let-down. As one of the least excitable golfers on the planet, it's reasonable to think he'll keep calm and carry on. His Firestone record has enough in it to suggest he can claim his first top 10 and perhaps much more this week.
Last four events: 1-2-1-25
Course form: 24-61-31-44-40-15-39
Ohio form: 24-MC-61-3-31-44-40-15-39
Last 50 starts - Win: 8%, Top 5: 22%, Top 10: 30%
Jon Rahm - feast or famine but Spaniard a good fit
Rahm's round scores on his Firestone debut last year do a pretty good job of highlighting his talent and flaws. In three of his four laps he was excellent, shooting two 67s and a 68. In the other, it all got the better of him and he slumped to a 77. The quick temper remains and has hindered him in the last two majors but, in theory, this is a great course for Rahm's mix of power and short-game brilliance. His last 10 worldwide starts show five flops and five top fives so when he's on, he's on.
Last four events: MC-4-5-MC
Course form: 28
Ohio form: 28-MC
Last 50 starts - Win: 10%, Top 5: 38%, Top 10: 44%
Tommy Fleetwood - big-time player these days
Fleetwood has two top fives and a further two top 20s in his last six majors while he has a second place and three top 20s in his last six WGCs so he's really starting to become a regular cast member in the stories told at big events. Four solid round last seasons should set him up for an improved performance this time and T6 in Canada last week was a nice way to kick on from his disappointing weekend at Carnoustie when he looked set to be leading contender to win.
Last four events: 6-12-MC-59
Course form: 28
Ohio form: 28-MC-MC
Last 50 starts - Win: 6%, Top 5: 20%, Top 10: 40%
Conclusion: Rory, Rose and Rickie are the bets
Rory McIlroy has made the top 10 in 48% of his last 50 worldwide starts so is virtually an even money shot anywhere to achieve the feat.
But when we add in the filter of this event (83% top 10s over his last six visits), getting an odds-against price for McIlroy to make the top 10 here is particularly attractive.
Fresh from his second place at Carnoustie, let's back Rory for a top 10 at 2.3211/8.
I see absolutely no flaws in Justin Rose's case this week so will take the more aggressive play and back the Englishman for a top 5 at 4.47/2.
All his four top 10s here were actually top fives so it makes sense to get bold on a player who is coming off his best ever Open finish (T2).
Finally, Rickie Fowler has finished 9-10-10-8 in the last four editions of this event.
He also has four top 10s in his last six WGC strokeplay starts (8-10-6-9).
The numbers suggest top 10 is the best way to play him here, so let's go in at 2.942/1.