WGC-Bridgestone Invitational 2018

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This week’s World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational 2018 marks the 65th anniversary of professional golf at Firestone Country Club. Another strong field has assembled to take on the stout South Course, which remains one of the TOUR’s sternest tests.

The TOUR first visited Firestone for the 1954 Rubber City Open. Now players from around the globe assemble here, hoping to add their name to a prestigious list of past champions at Firestone that includes Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson. And, of course, Tiger Woods has been victorious eight times in Akron.

Woods returns to Firestone for the first time in four years after nearly winning The Open Championship. He’ll be featured in PGA TOUR Live’s Featured Groups coverage, as will former FedExCup champions Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas. FedExCup leader Dustin Johnson, The Open champion Francesco Molinari and defending champion Hideki Matsuyama are other players who can be seen on PGA TOUR LIVE on Thursday and Friday.

PGA TOUR LIVE will also be available on Twitter on Thursday and Friday and Facebook Watch on the weekend. Twitter will show approximately the first 90 minutes of the Featured Groups coverage. Facebook Watch will have exclusive Featured Groups coverage on Saturday and Sunday for viewers in the United States.

Here’s a closer look at this week’s Featured Groups. (Note: FedExCup ranking in parentheses.)

THURSDAY
Tiger Woods (47)-Jason Day (5): Woods is making his first appearance at Firestone since 2014, the year after he shot a second-round 61 en route to his most recent PGA TOUR win. Firestone is one of three courses where he has won eight times, along with Bay Hill and Torrey Pines. Seven of those wins came in nine starts at Firestone between 1999 and 2009. Day has never won at Firestone, but he has strong local ties as a resident of Columbus, Ohio, and a passionate supporter of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Rory McIlroy (24)-Hideki Matsuyama (86): This pairing features two former champions of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Matsuyama ran away from the field last year with a course-record-tying 61 in the final round. He birdied the final three holes to win by five shots. Surprisingly, it remains Matsuyama’s most recent win. He has qualified for the TOUR Championship in all four seasons of his PGA TOUR career, but that streak is in peril. McIlroy’s win earlier this year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard was his first since winning the 2016 FedExCup. He’s coming off a T2 finish at The Open Championship. McIlroy has five top-10s in seven starts at Firestone, including his win in 2014 that was sandwiched between wins at The Open and PGA Championship.

FRIDAY
Dustin Johnson (1)-Francesco Molinari (7): The PGA TOUR’s most recent winner is paired with the game’s hottest player. Johnson’s win in last week’s RBC Canadian Open was his third this season and gave him a 527-point lead in the FedExCup. Johnson won the Bridgestone Invitational in 2016. Molinari will be making his first start since winning The Open Championship. He has leapt more than 100 spots in the FedExCup after wins at the Quicken Loans National and Open Championship, as well as a runner-up at the John Deere Classic. He has three wins and two runners-up in his last six worldwide starts.

Justin Thomas (2)-Phil Mickelson (9): The two Presidents Cup teammates are playing together for the first time this season and just the third time in their careers. Thomas, the reigning FedExCup champion, has two wins this season. Mickelson won one of this season’s WGCs, the Mexico Championship, for his first victory in five years. He won the 1996 World Series of Golf at Firestone South, then posted three consecutive runners-up in Akron. The last one came in the inaugural WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, when Mickelson finished one shot behind Woods

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