Sarah Stirk: Dustin Johnson hard to overlook as defending champion
Sarah Stirk continued her column's winning streak after selecting Jordan Spieth at The Open Championship. She offers her expert verdict with insight from Royal Birkdale for the WGC at Firestone this week...
"DJ shot two rounds of 66 over the weekend a year ago and is heavily fancied to defend. Claude Harmon III who coached DJ and works with us at Sky wholeheartedly agrees with his students assertion that he's very close and the next win is just around the corner."
It's WGC time this week just as the excitement of a brilliant Open Championship is settling down. I'm still in a slight state of disbelief at Jordan Spieth's ability to produce extraordinary moments when nothing is going for him but that's testament to his remarkable mental strength.
I heavily fancied him at Birkdale due to his brilliant iron play this season and an increasingly hot putter. He's definitely going to have to find more fairways is he's to contend this week though, with a real premium on driving accuracy around Firestone as noted by the World Number One Dustin Johnson.
"Around this golf course it's very important to drive it well. The fairways are narrow, the rough is deep, it's like this every year."
DJ shot two rounds of 66 over the weekend a year ago and is a strong fancy to defend. Claude Harmon III, who coached DJ and works with us at Sky, wholeheartedly agrees with his student's assertion that he's very close and the next win is just around the corner. Four rounds in the 60s last week at Glen Abbey also bodes well.
Spieth finished a couple of strokes behind DJ last year in a tie for third alongside Jason Day and I quite like Day's chances this week too. It's an Ohio home game for the Aussie this week and having talked to Jason a couple of times at Birkdale I also feel a big win is close. Like DJ he's had a stop-start year due to injury and his mother's illness but you just sense he's about to produce a really good spell of golf. Day talks relentlessly about being patient and I sensed a real calmness about him at The Open, which is always a good sign for the former World Number One.
I'm fascinated to see how Rory McIlroy performs with his best man on his bag this week! The talk among the caddies is that Rory's sacking of JP wasn't a big surprise although he did receive huge praise from his former boss for some stern and inspiring in-round words at The Open.
Maybe a fresh look and feel will do wonders for ROry, look at Tommy Fleetwood's success with his best mate on the bag? But I do feel in the long run McIlroy would really benefit from a first-class caddy who can offer some experienced course management strategy. Rory is my still my pick for the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, where he's had success before so I'm going to monitor him closely this week but my picks are as follows.
Sarah's WGC Bridgestone Selections:
Back Dustin Johnson @ 9/1 - as highlighted the defending champion is hard to overlook. A place where he's tasted success before and very close to top form DJ gets my pick this week to win.
Back Paul Casey each-way @ 30/1 (seven places, 1/5 the odds) - The Englishman recently turned 40 and surely a win is just around the corner after all his impressive play in 2017. Casey had a good start to The Open but fell away on day two, he also had a good US Open plus he has a solid record around Firestone. Again something I talk about a lot with players but he's in a good place mentally given his off course happiness with baby number two due in September!
Back Ross Fisher to finish Top 10 @ 15/2 - I'm going for another Englishman and another good driver of the golf ball, long and accurate. I've picked Fish before in this column and he let me down! Hopefully not this week. He's been playing well for some time with three top fives and three top tens in his last 12 starts. Plus he's recorded top tens in his last three WGC events.