First-Round Notes – Thursday, August 3, 2017
Weather: Increasing clouds, high of 85. Light winds at 4-8 mph out of the south, increasing to 6-12 mph throughout the day.
First-Round Leaderboard
Thomas Pieters             65 (-5)
Russell Knox                 66 (-4)
Kevin Kisner                  67 (-3)
Ross Fisher                   67 (-3)
Bubba Watson              67 (-3)
Jordan Spieth                67 (-3)
Rory McIlroy                 67 (-3)
Jon Rahm                     67 (-3)
Thomas Pieters, 65 (-5)
Thomas Pieters made his World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational debut count, opening with a bogey-free, 5-under 65 to hold a one-shot lead over Russell Knox and Adam Scott. At 34th in the Official World Golf Ranking, the 25-year-old Pieters is the highest-ranked Belgian player in history – he can move into the top 15 with a win this week.
Pieters, a Special Temporary Member on the PGA TOUR, has five previous starts in WGC events, recording his best finish at the Mexico Championship this year (T5).
In the first round, Pieters hit just 4 of 14 fairways, putting him at T65 in the field out of 76 players. Interestingly he gained more than four strokes on the field on approach shots (4.165), which led the field.
Pieters played on the European Team in the 2016 Ryder Cup and represented Belgium in the Olympic Golf competition in Brazil in 2016.
This is the first time Pieters has held a lead after the first round of a PGA TOUR event, his previous-best position through the first round was a T7 at the Mexico Championship earlier this year.
On the European Tour, Pieters has only ever held the first-round lead once, and he went on to win at the 2016 Made in Denmark.
As a Special Temporary Member, Pieters is eligible for unlimited sponsor exemptions for the remainder of the 2016-17 season as he attempts to earn a PGA TOUR card for the 2017-18 season through the Non-member FedExCup Points List. It’s important to note: Special Temporary Members are not eligible for the FedExCup Playoffs, but Special Temporary Members or non-members who subsequently become regular PGA TOUR members by winning an official event during the season will be counted on the FedExCup points list, along with any FedExCup points earned as a non-member (excluding those won at World Golf Championships events as a non-member) and thus be eligible for the FedExCup Playoffs.
Pieters’ R1 Strokes Gained stats:
Stat                                                      Rank
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee                   23
Strokes Gained: Tee To Green               1
Strokes Gained: Approach The Green     1
Strokes Gained: Around The Green        5
Strokes Gained: Putting                         46
First-Round Lead Notes
The first-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win four times at the Bridgestone Invitational, most recently Adam Scott in 2011. Stewart Cink achieved the feat in 2004 and Tiger Woods did it twice, in 1999 and 2000.
The first-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win seven times in 38 stroke-play events on the PGA TOUR this season, most recently Jordan Spieth at The Open Championship.
The lowest first-round score in tournament history is 8-under 62 by Adam Scott in 2011.
The leading first-round score has never been higher than 67 at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Russell Knox, 66 (-4)
Russell Knox opened with a 4-under 66 in his bid for a second World Golf Championships victory, his first coming at the 2015 World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions.
Knox is 75th in the FedExCup after getting off to a hot start. Since beginning his season with three-straight top-10s, Knox has yet to record one since the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. His last top-25 finish came at the Sony Open in Hawaii, where he finished T11.
Knox has two PGA TOUR victories, as he added the 2016 Travelers Championship in addition to his win at the HSBC Champions.
Knox recorded his 66 despite hitting just 10 of 18 Greens in Regulation. He was 6 of 8 in scrambling and needed just 24 putts during his round.
This is Knox’s second start in the event – he finished 54th last year.
Kevin Kisner, 67 (-3)
Kevin Kisner’s six birdies and bogey-free back nine led to a 3-under 67 in the opening round, his lowest 18-hole score in eight previous rounds at the Bridgestone Invitational. In two previous appearances at Firestone Country Club, Kisner finished T37 and T16.
Kisner collected his second career PGA TOUR victory at the 2017 DEAN & DELUCA Invitational, where he was tied for seventh after the first round and two shots back. His win, along with two runner-up finishes and four other top-10 results has the St. Simons Island, Ga., resident at No. 10 in the FedExCup standings.
Kisner’s best finish in a World Golf Championships event is a T2 at the 2015 HSBC Champions.
Ross Fisher, 67 (-3)
Ross Fisher of England shot an opening-round 67 at the Bridgestone Invitational and is two off Thomas Pieters’ lead. He has finished in the top 6 of the last three-consecutive WGC events. The 67 is Fisher’s lowest career round at the Bridgestone Invitational in 13 rounds.
Fisher is looking for his first PGA TOUR victory, though he has five European Tour wins, most recently at the 2014 Tshwane Open.
Bubba Watson, 67 (-3)
Bubba Watson opened with a 67 in his bid to become the first left-handed player to win the Bridgestone Invitational. His runner-up finish in 2015 matched Phil Mickelson’s runner-up showing in 1999 as the best result by a left-hander in the Bridgestone Invitational. Watson (2014 HSBC Champions), Phil Mickelson (2009 Mexico Championship) and Mike Weir (2000 Mexico Championship) are the only lefties to win World Golf Championships events.
Watson is seeking his 10th win on TOUR, his last coming in the 2016 Genesis Open. He is making his eighth appearance at the Bridgestone Invitational – his runner-up finish in 2015 his best result. He shot 6-under 64 in his first official tournament round at Firestone CC to lead by two strokes over Graeme McDowell after the opening round of the 2010 Bridgestone Invitational. It remains his low 18-hole score at this event by two strokes.
Jordan Spieth, 67 (-3)
Jordan Spieth, coming off back-to-back wins at the Travelers Championship and The Open Championship, fired a first-round 67, two off the lead. He is looking for his fourth win of the season. In his previous three wins, Spieth was T4 after the first round of the AT&T National Pro-Am, held the lead after the first round of the Travelers Championship and was tied for the lead at The Open Championship after the opening 18 holes.
Spieth holds a narrow lead over defending Bridgestone Invitational champion Dustin Johnson in the FedExCup. He is seeking his 12th career PGA TOUR win.
Spieth turned 24 last week on July 27. This is his fourth appearance at the event (49/2014, T10/2015, T3/2016).
Rory McIlroy, 67 (-3)
Rory McIlroy, the defending FedExCup champion, shot 67 in the opening round of his seventh start at the Bridgestone Invitational and first since 2014 when he won the event. He did not play in the event in 2015 due to injury and played the European Tour’s French Open in 2016.
McIlroy is a 13-time PGA TOUR winner with nine international victories. Last season, he won two FedExCup Playoffs events (Dell Technologies Championship and TOUR Championship) en route to winning the FedExCup.
McIlroy is currently No. 53 in the FedExCup standings.
Jon Rahm, 67 (-3)
John Rahm eagled the 661-yard par-5 16th hole on his way to recording a first-round 67. In only two previous World Golf Championships starts, Rahm has finished T3 and 2nd in the Mexico Championship and Dell Technologies Match Play, respectively.
In 17 starts this season on the PGA TOUR, the 22-year-old has seven top-10 finishes and is No. 5 in the FedExCup standings. Rahm captured his first PGA TOUR victory at the Farmers Insurance Open in February and recently won his first European Tour title at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation.
Rahm’s eagle on 16 was the second on the hole since 2008 – Justin Thomas chipped in for eagle last year.
Dustin Johnson, 68 (-2)
Defending champion Dustin Johnson shot an opening-round 2-under 68. On the par-5 16th, he hit a drive that travelled 439 yards, the longest drive recorded on the PGA TOUR since 2013. Johnson had the previous longest drive of the 2016-17 season, a 428-yard drive on the 18th hole in the final round of the SBS Tournament of Champions at The Plantation Course at Kapalua. Phil Mickelson hit a 450-yard drive at Trump National Doral in 2013.
Miscellaneous notes
Most World Golf Championships appearances (not counting this week)
(Mexico Championship, Dell Technologies Match Play, Bridgestone Invitational and HSBC Champions)
Westwood, Lee             58
Garcia, Sergio               53
Mickelson, Phil              51
Els, Ernie                      47
Furyk, Jim                     47
Scott, Adam                  46
Woods, Tiger                44
Poulter, Ian                   42
Johnson, Zach              41
First-time Bridgestone Invitational participants
There are 22 players participating in their first-ever Bridgestone Invitational this week, including nine (bold) who will make their World Golf Championships debut:
Sam Brazel, Wesley Bryan, Bryson Dechambeau, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Adam Hadwin, Tyrrell Hatton, Scott Hend, Mackenzie Hughes, Si Woo Kim, Satoshi Kodaira, Shaun Norris, Renato Paratore, Thomas Pieters, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Andy Sullivan, Hudson Swafford, Hideto Tanihara, Harold Varner III, Jeunghun Wang, Fabrizio Zanotti.
The best 18-hole score at Firestone CC during the Bridgestone Invitational is 9-under 61, twice by Tiger Woods (2000, 2013) and most recently by Sergio Garcia (2014). Each of the 61s came in the second round.
Tiger Woods owns the tournament record of 259 (21-under) which he posted in 2000. His 11-stroke win that year is also the largest winning margin in tournament history.
Peter Jacobsen
Peter Jacobsen has been named the 2017 Ambassador of Golf by Northern Ohio Golf Charities. The Ambassador of Golf Award is presented annually at the Bridgestone Invitational to a person who has fostered the ideals of the game on an international level and whose concern for others extends beyond the golf course. Love will be honored on the first tee at Firestone Country Club on Wednesday, August 1 at 5:30 p.m., an event open to all Wednesday Bridgestone Invitational ticket holders. Jacobsen joins an illustrious list of Ambassador of Golf Award winners: 1981 Chi Chi Rodriguez; 1982 Bing Crosby; 1983 Byron Nelson; 1984 Gene Sarazen; 1985 President Gerald Ford; 1986 Bob Hope; 1987 Dinah Shore; 1988 Joe Dey; 1989 Frank Chirkinian; 1990 Barbara Nicklaus; 1991 Arnold Palmer; 1992 Nancy Lopez; 1993 Roberto De Vicenzo; 1994 President George H.W. Bush; 1995 Michael Bonnallack; 1996 Deane Beman; 1997 Peter Thomson; 1998 Ken Venturi; 1999 Gary Player; 2000 Ben Hogan and Sam Snead; 2001 Del de Windt; 2002 Joanne Carner; 2003 Robert Dedman, Sr. and Jack Vickers; 2004 Lee Trevino; 2005 Pete Dye; 2006 Ken Schofield; 2007 Tony Jacklin; 2008 Charlie Sifford; 2009 Hale Irwin; 2010 Tom Watson; 2011 Nick Price; 2012 Nick Faldo; 2013 Jack Nicklaus; 2014 Johnny Miller; 2015 Judy Rankin and 2016 Davis Love III.
Bogey-free rounds: Thomas Pieters (65) recorded the only bogey free round.
Scoring average:
Front nine         Back nine          Cumulative
R1        35.934              35.158              71.092
The most difficult hole in the first round was the par-4 4th (4.395), the easiest hole was the par-5 2nd(4.566).