WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Webb looks a player
The PGA Tour heads to Firestone CC in Ohio this week and Dave Tindall looks for more profits with these three selections for the WGC event...
"As a US Open winner and champion on Pete Dye's Sawgrass, Simpson likes a thinky test and his game looks in great shape to cash in this week."
Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 6 places
One unlikely course form fact shared by the last two winners of this event, Hideki Matsuyama and Dustin Johnson, is that neither had managed a top 10 at Firestone CC before lifting the trophy.
DJ's best in six previous tries was T15 six years earlier while Matsuyama's PB from four previous knocks was T12 in 2014.
What they did share was strong current form. Johnson was playing for the first time since his US Open win two weeks earlier while in 2016 Matsuyama had finished runner-up in the US Open and followed it with T14 in both the Irish Open and Open Championship.
A player with a similar profile this week is Webb Simpson.
In mid-May, the American was a brilliant winner of The Players Championship at Sawgrass and he's backed that up with T10 in the US Open and T12 in The Open at Carnoustie two weeks ago.
His three previous starts at Firestone CC show T25 on his last visit in 2015, T31 in 2014 and T14 on debut in 2013 when he opened with 64 and closed with 66. Room for improvement but the foundations for something much better.
He said after that 6-under opener: "This is one of our best courses on tour, tee to green, and the course has a lot of character to it, although there's only two par 5s.
"Every hole you've got to think, and there's certain holes where you can miss it in the rough on certain sides of the fairway. And other holes you're just off the fairway and you don't have a shot."
As a US Open winner and champion on Pete Dye's Sawgrass, Simpson likes a thinky test and his game looks in great shape to cash in this week.
The last five winners at Firestone all ranked in the top five for greens in regulation and also in the top two on the All-Around stat.
Looking at his GIR figures, Simpson was 5th at Sawgrass, 8th at Shinnecock and 9th at Carnoustie, finishing 3rd, 9th and 4th on the All-Around in those same events.
Of course, perhaps the most eye-catching stat this season given that it was considered his Achilles Heel when the anchoring ban came in is that Simpson is ranked 6th for SG: Putting.
Recent Firestone winners have had strong putting numbers so, again, it feeds into the idea that Simpson is excelling in the right areas.
There are a couple of apparent negatives such as his modest position in the Total Driving stats but the idea that you have to hit it long and straight to succeed here doesn't quite ring true when going over the numbers.
Recent years says this is a second-shot course on which you have to putt well.
He's been in the top 20 at all three majors this season and big performances in elite events are becoming common for Simpson since his putting turned around.
Take the 60/1.
If there's one player who looks a surefire contender this week it has to be Justin Rose.
For the best part of two frustrating days at Carnoustie, it looked as if the Englishman would be left scratching his head as to why he'd failed in yet another Open Championship.
But a brave putt at 18 sneaked him into the weekend and from there he took flight, shooting 64-69 to roar through the field and finish joint runner-up.
As well as stretching his current run of form to five straight top 10s, the psychological boost would have been massive and I'm expecting Rose to ride the wave and gain another big win soon.
This looks a great place for the plan to come to fruition.
The World No.3 has a second, a third, a fourth and a fifth at Firestone CC, two of those coming in the last four years.
Rose was asked a few years back why he particularly enjoys and thrives at both Firestone and Muirfield Village (home of the Memorial where he's had a win and six other top 10s).
His response: "I love the golf - the condition of the golf course is always first class when we play the Memorial and again here
"The types of grasses are fantastic, the bentgrass and then whatever the rough is. You know, I kind of like these overseeded type golf courses. Yeah, just they're really pure. Greens are fast. Greens are pure. So, yeah, that's kind of the style I like to play."
One extra incentive this week is that Rose can go to World No.1. He has to win and have Dustin Johnson finish worse than solo 17th but it's not beyond the realms.
DJ won last week but missed the cut at Carnoustie and, as highlighted, has a patchy record at Firestone.
Rory McIlroy has a big, big chance but no better than Rose I think and yet he's five points shorter.
And although Tiger Woods has won here a million times, I simply can't have him at 12/1. Much of the extraordinary talent and golf brain remains but the ability to close out events - a massive factor when taking prices like this - is a key missing element that Tiger is still trying to unearth.
Of the other market leaders, the one I like best is Rickie Fowler. He's had four straight top 10s in this event as well as a second place in 2011.
Charley Hoffman was tied third in this event last year after closing with a 66 and he's never finished worse than tied 37th in five tries.
In the last few months, he's kept hinting at something to similar to last year's top three and I'm willing to take the attractive 70/1 that it clicks for him again at this venue.
Looking at his bare results in recent weeks, the shaggy-haired American was T20 at the US Open, T15 at the Travelers, T19 at the Scottish Open, T17 at Carnoustie and T29 in last week's Canadian Open.
Drilling down, Hoffman is ranked fourth in greens in regulation percentage over the last eight weeks (70.3%) so he's performing almost as well as anyone at one of the big key skills this week.
Like Simpson, he's also cracked the top 20 in all three majors so far, a run started by T12 at Augusta National, so only needs to sink a few more putts to get right in among the star names again.
He should be in a nice groove after playing the last three weeks and his 67-66 weekend finish last year will hopefully be at the forefront of Hoffman's mind when he tees it up here for the sixth time.
Others I like at shorter prices but away from the favourites are 45/1 shots Patrick Cantlay and Tony Finau.
They're 12th and 13th respectively in Ball-Striking and both made the top 12 at Carnoustie.
Perhaps, though, they haven't won enough to be backing them at 45s in a field like this and both are making their tournament debuts which counts against them.
Dave's 2017/18 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)
(After the Canadian Open)