The iconic water tower overlooks Firestone Country Club. (Lyons/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
• COURSE: Firestone Country Club (South), 7,400 yards, par 70. Originally a very generous perk from Harvey Firestone to employees of his tire company, the club also has made a name as a stern test of golf. The South course, opened in 1929, was remade by Robert Trent Jones for the 1960 PGA Championship captured by Jay Hebert. The PGA of America brought its championship back again in 1966 and ’75, by which time Firestone had become home of the World Series of Golf. The event moved under the World Golf Championships banner in 1999.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 550 points.
• CHARITY: The First Tee is the primary beneficiary of World Golf Championships events. Proceeds also go to the Ronald McDonald Houses of Cleveland and Akron, which provide families of seriously ill or injured children with a place to live while their child is treated.
• FIELD WATCH: Tiger Woods, who owns seven wins at Firestone but none since 2009, and defending champion Keegan Bradley top a field of 73 qualifiers. Only No. 11 Louis Oosthuizen (neck) is missing from the world’s top 50. … Spots remain for the RBC Canadian Open winner or anyone who enters the top 50 in Monday’s Official World Golf Ranking. … Billy Horschel, Harris English and Tommy Gainey are among more than a half-dozen men playing their first World Golf Championships event. … England’s Paul Casey, beset by injuries in recent years after playing three Ryder Cups for Europe, makes his first WGC start since last year at Doral.
• 72-HOLE RECORD: 259, Tiger Woods (2000).
• 18-HOLE RECORD: 61, José María Olazábal (1st round, 1990), Tiger Woods (2nd round, 2000).
• LAST YEAR: Bradley captured his first WGC title with a brilliant back-nine 31, though it took Jim Furyk’s closing double bogey to put the trophy in his hands. Bradley, who began the day four shots behind Furyk, finished with a 6-under-par 64 and never led until all strokes were counted. Trailing by one as he arrived at the 18th tee, Bradley had to extricate himself from a plugged lie in a greenside bunker, rolling home a 15-foot par save. It turned out to be enough when Furyk’s 7-iron from the fairway went long and he had an awkward stance to chip from a collar just behind another bunker. A playoff still looked possible when Furyk faced a 5-foot bogey chance, but the putt went wide.
• STORYLINES: Though Woods’ comeback has been marked with wins at old haunts Torrey Pines, Doral, Bay Hill and Muirfield Village, he’s yet to recapture the glory at Firestone. Last year’s tie for eighth was his best in three visits. … Phil Mickelson tees it up for the first time since his Open Championship triumph at Muirfield. After four straight top-10s when the event joined the WGC rota, Lefty has added just one in his past 10 visits to Firestone. … Ryder Cup clincher Martin Kaymer (126th), Peter Hanson (134th) and Gainey (135th) come to Firestone outside the top 125 in FedExCup points, still needing to lock down Playoff berths.
• SHORT CHIPS: Since the start of the 2010 season, 11 different players have captured World Golf Championships crowns. The list didn’t include Woods until this past March, when he won the WGC-Cadillac Championship. … At 26 years, 1 month, Bradley last year became the youngest man other than Woods to win a WGC event. Woods captured four of his at a younger age. … Lee Westwood is making his 44th WGC start this week, most of any player but still seeking his first victory. Woods is next, teeing it up for the 42nd time in the series.
• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. EDT (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, noon-1:30 p.m. (GC); 2-6 p.m. (CBS).
• RADIO: Thursday-Sunday, noon-6 p.m. EDT (SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio).