Tiger Woods appears to be confident with his driver once again. (Greenwood/Getty Images)
By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM
Tiger, Tiger, Tiger… Need I say more?
In a performance over the venerable Firestone Country Club South Course that was nothing short of virtuoso, Tiger Woods pulverized the strong Bridgestone Invitational field to log his 79th PGA TOUR victory and his 8th in Akron.
From the outset, Woods had all systems firing. He hit 16 greens in regulation, including a number of approach shots inside of the flag and shot a first-round 66 (4 under). It placed him squarely in the mix and just a couple of shots of the pace.
Roll on to Friday afternoon and a vintage Woods. He blasted out of the gate with a birdie and an eagle on Nos. 1 and 2. He snatched the lead and never relinquished his position atop the leaderboard. He proceeded to shred Firestone to the tune of 9-under par through 13 holes and the 59-watch was on. He missed a few makeable birdie putts over the final five holes but the incredible day was completed with a Houdini-esque escape for par on the 18th hole.
Woods' approach over the weekend was a little more conservative as he dropped the anchor and protected his lead in the breezy conditions. He still, however, hit his driver as often as I have seen him hit it and he did so with great aplomb. He was 6th in driving distance (315 yards) and tied for 11th in driving accuracy (62.5 percent). And as everyone knows, a Tiger in the fairway is a dangerous proposition.
There are so many things we can learn from the world’s No. 1, but I have chosen to address his new-found confidence in the "big dog" and how you can imitate a few things he does:
Posture perfect: Woods does as good a job as anybody when it comes to gripping the club correctly, positioning the ball well for contact at the correct area in the swing arc, and setting up to the ball in perfect posture and accurate alignment. These elements may appear mundane to you, but know this: the grip influences the clubface angle, which affects the shot direction. The ball position has an influence on the launch angle and direction, and the posture and alignment affect all of the above. Secondly, if the most talented golfer on the planet takes time to nail down all of these pre-shot elements, I do believe each and every one of us should also do so… case closed!
Square that clubface: Woods has really improved the condition of his clubface’s alignment at the top of his swing. This allows him to make a direct and unimpeded release of the clubface and his body through impact. As a reference, a square clubface at the top of the swing will have the leading edge of the club look like it is parallel to the lead forearm (left for righties and right for lefties). An open clubface would have the leading edge “hanging” more vertically and the closed face would have it look more horizontal and pointing toward the sky. Neither of these conditions would have it look parallel with the forearm. So check on that face and work to square it off… just like Woods. It is very important.
Couple the lead arm and chest: A sure-fire recipe to get the club out of kilter (in terms of timing and planes) is to have the lead arm separate too far from the chest on the backswing, but especially in the downswing. The couplet of the lead arm and its chest is very important so strive to have the lead arm (left for right-handers) swing close to the chest throughout the swing. A neat image to employ is to imagine that your left tricep has sandpaper underneath it. Then as you swing back and down that sandpaper should wear the logo off the left chest off your shirt. Obviously if your lead arm separates from your body too much you will have a hard time “sanding your chest and shirt”. Observe Woods and watch him as he rehearses and then makes this move on every shot.
Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
AKRON, Ohio -- Tiger Woods took control of the lead with his course-record tying 61 on Friday and spent the weekend protecting that lead. He was never challenged and took few chances. Woods was second in greens in regulation, hitting 53 of 72, and fifth in total putts with 30, 22, 25 and 33 over four days. He led the field in total birdies with 19 and perhaps most importantly Woods was first in proximity to the cup, hitting it to an average of 25 feet, 8 inches. He did not just give himself birdie putts, he had makeable birdie putts.
Sunday, winds made the golf course much more difficult and Woods could just grind out pars and cruise to victory.
It was important to notice Tiger continued to hit drivers on the weekend when it wasn’t necessary. He wound up 11th in fairways hit and you wonder if Woods pounded so many drivers this weekend knowing it would be necessary to bang drivers at next week’s PGA Championship.
Front nine: Players struggled on the outward nine the entire week -- with the exception of Tiger Woods. He was 10 under on the front nine, making just one bogey on that portion of the golf course for the week. Consider, if Woods only played the front nine and turned in a score for those difficult 36 holes, he still would have beaten the field at 10 under.
Ninth: A major reason the front nine was so difficult was the ninth hole. Players are leaving Akron with smiles on their faces because they don’t have to play that hole again for another year. It’s a 502-yard, par-4 with an elevated green that played to a stroke average of 4.397 with three birdies, 41 pars, 25 bogeys and three doubles. Compare those numbers with the par-5 second, which played to a 4.342 scoring average.
Conditions: It was much more windy in the final round than in the previous three and players had to adjust. Players expected that wind to dry the greens and increase the speed but the putting surfaces may have been a touch slower in the final round and that required adjustment as well.
Hello: One of the great things about World Golf Championships is the field. You see players you don’t get to watch in most other PGA TOUR events. Kiradech Aphibarnrat arrived from Thailand with an unfamiliar name but showed us big game. Chris Wood is a European Tour veteran that was very impressive in both stature and game. It’s hard for a player to be 6-foot-6 and still have good posture but Wood caught everyone’s attention this week.
Comparison: This week was great preparation for the PGA Championship in that both Firestone Country Club and Oak Hill Country Club are very similar. Both are tree-lined with elevation changes and little water. The grasses in the fairways, rough and greens are almost identical. Look for players who performed well this week to play well at the PGA.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.
Woods won for the eighth time at Firestone on Sunday. (Shamus/Getty Images)
Tiger Woods won for the fifth time this season on Sunday, coasting to a seven-shot win at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. It is his eighth career victory at Firestone and his 79th overall win, moving him to within three of all-time wins leader Sam Snead.
It also marks the 10th time in Woods' career that he has won at least five times in a single season.
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Tiger Woods shares a moment with his son Charlie after his win at Firestone.
AKRON, Ohio -- For the second time this year, Tiger Woods has matched Sam Snead's record of eight victories in a single event.
Sunday's dominating win at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational was his eighth at Firestone Country Club and his 18th in the global series. Woods also picked up his eighth win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard back in March.
Snead first accomplished the feat at the Greater Greensboro Open, winning that tournament in four different decades. Sunday's win at Firestone -- Woods' fifth of the season -- also brought him to 79 for his career and within three of Snead's all-time mark.
Woods, who electrified the crowd with a 61 in the second round, shot a conservative even-par 70 that left him at 15 under for 72 holes. He beat Keegan Bradley and Henrik Stenson by seven strokes and took a commanding lead in the FedExCup standings.
"It's very tough to give Tiger that many shots," Bradley said. "The round he shot on Friday was pretty special. You know, I hate to sit here and go on and on about how good he is, but he is. It's difficult because I really want to get up there and contend with him, but ... this week he's playing really well.
After he spoke with CBS announcer David Feherety, Woods picked up his young son, Charlie, and carried him to the scorer's trailer. Woods will now head to Rochester, N.Y., for next week's PGA Championship as the favorite as he attempts to end a victory drought in the majors that dates back more than five years.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
AKRON, Ohio -- Phil Mickelson isn't quite sure why he hasn't played better at Firestone Country Club over the last decade.
After all, he won the 1996 NEC World Series of Golf played there, and he posted top-10 finishes in the first five years that Firestone hosted the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. In the last 11 years, though, Mickelson has only finished higher than 20th once.
"But it has not changed the way I feel about the course and the tournament," he said. "It's just a wonderful straightforward test of golf. It was in excellent shape. I thought the weather was great. It's a great place to have a World Golf Championship and to have a tournament the week before a major, our last major."
Mickelson, who won The Open Championship in his last start, just didn't play particularly well in this year's Bridgestone Invitational. He only broke par once, shooting 67 on Saturday, and ended up tied for 21st at 1 over. He only hit five fairways and 10 of 18 greens in shooting 71 on Sunday.
"I enjoy the challenge, and I don't have a great reason as to why I haven't played well the last eight, ten years, but I wasn't as sharp this week as I needed to be, as I need to be next week," Mickelson said.
Mickelson chalked it up to some lingering fatigue after the emotional win at Muirfield that gave him the third leg of the career Grand Slam. He wasn't as prepared as he would have liked but he was pleased with his practice sessions last week.
The five-time major champ was headed to Rochester Sunday evening to prepare for the PGA Championship. He played Oak Hill last Monday so he has a good idea of how he wants to approach the season's final major. He expected to take Monday off, play a practice round on Tuesday and then see how he feels on Wednesday.
One thing he does know, though. The rough at Oak Hill places a premuim on keeping the ball in the fairway.
"The rough is extremely long and thick, I mean, as long and thick of rough as I've seen in a long time," Mickelson said. "It could very well be that they grew it out the week before with the intention of cutting it the week of the tournament, but from what I saw they had just cut it, and it was as long and thick a rough as I had seen. I mean, it was eight to 12 inches long, not just four.
"So I'm sure they're going to cut some of it, but it was extremely thick, and so therefore the key to that course is going to be two things: One is the fairway; you've got to hit fairways. You can leave yourself further back, but you've got to hit fairways. And two is Donald Ross courses, the greens tend to be a little bit more severe back to front, and I think you're going to have to leave it underneath the hole. Chipping from behind the greens are almost impossible to get it close."
Mickelson said he isn't sure whether he will carry a driver or a 64-degree wedge at Oak Hill, saying he's leaning toward the driver but it would likely be a day-to-day decision. The driver could be helpful into a strong wind because a 3-wood might be marginal in terms of putting him where he wanted to be on some holes. The wedge might be an asset if the weather is warm.
"I don't think either club is necessary," Mickelson said. "I don't need a 64-degree wedge and I don't need a driver. But I don't think I'll just play with 13, either. So I'll probably carry one of those."
Tiger Woods hits his 118-yard approach shot to 7 feet on the par-4 10th hole and sinks the birdie putt to get to 16 under during the final round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
AKRON, Ohio -- What has turned into Tiger Woods' victory lap continues midway through the back nine Sunday during the final round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
Woods finally got his first birdie in the final round when he rolled in a 7-footer at the 10th hole. That moved him to 16 under and he's now nine strokes ahead of his nearest competitors, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner and Henrik Stenson, through 13 holes.
Tee to green, Woods has been steady, hitting six of his first 11 fairways but still managing to find 10 of 13 greens in regulation. He's used 22 putts already, though -- which was his total for 18 holes on Friday when Woods shot that sizzling 61.
Luke Donald hits his 138-yard approach shot to 5 feet and makes the putt for birdie on the third during the final round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. With the birdie, Donald moved into sole possession of second at 8 under, but still a distant seven strokes behind Tiger Woods.
AKRON, Ohio -- Seven holes into his final round at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational Tiger Woods is still looking for his first birdie.
As he plays the eighth hole, though, Woods' lead remains seven strokes over Keegan Bradley and Luke Donald. Bradley has just made the turn in 32 after making birdies on three of his last four holes while Donald birdie Nos. 2 and 3 to get to 8 under for the tournament.
Woods has hit six of those greens in regulation and two-putted from 6, 20, 25, 16 and 17 feet. Woods also got up and down from the greenside bunker at the first hole for another par.
Henrik Stenson, who started the final round alone in second, bogeyed No. 3 and dropped back to 7 under, tied with Jason Dufner. Dufner birdied his first hole but gave that back with a bogey at No. 4.