Hardworking Woods earns return to Firestone finale

Akron, OH — It has been a challenging return to the PGA TOUR for Tiger Woods, but his playing this week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational is a mission accomplished.

Woods placed 50th in the Official World Golf Ranking after the Open Championship which earned him an exemption into the tournament he has won eight times.

“Starting last December, I was about 1,200 in the world and within a year to get down to 50, I think is a pretty good accomplishment, but it also got me into this event,” he said. “This event has been very special to me over the years and it’s sad to see it leave Firestone. We certainly understand it. For me, I’ve always had such great memories of this golf course. I played here when I was an amateur with my dad, and we played both courses that day. To be able to play when I was an amateur, or basically a junior golfer, to be able to play a Tour golf course, that was always a pretty neat thing to say. We played Riviera, we played Torrey Pines South, you’re playing Tour courses. For me, to be able to
not only play a Tour course but be able to win on it a few times, that’s very special.”

Woods last won this event in 2013. by eight strokes over both Keegan Bradley and Henrik Stenson and last appeared in 2014 when he was forced to withdraw on Sunday that year.

“This has been one of the very few tournaments that is kind of a small-town atmosphere,” said Woods. “It’s a very simple, straightforward golf course, which we don’t see very often anymore. This is away from the stadium golf that we seem to play a lot now on TOUR, and I’m just excited to be here and be able to play. As far as the future of this event, I know it has to move and it has to go forward and off to Memphis, but it’s one of the reasons why I tried so hard to get in this event, is because it does mean something special to me.”

With his play, it can be a safe assessment that Woods will be playing at least four weeks in a row starting Thursday, which provides a new test for his both physically and mentally.

“If I played well, this is what I was going to have to endure, coming with a pretty big schedule at the very end,” he said. “We built a pretty good physical game plan for it. I just need to make sure I’m physically fit enough to get through this section. I also want to play well and win tournaments through this. I feel like my body is good. I need to keep it that way. I still need to train really hard and limit how much I do practice, the wear and tear on the body, because I’m going to be putting it through its paces in tournament play, which as we all know, we hit the ball harder in tournaments than we do in practice.”

Woods certainly has gained an awareness to where his game is at during this return to golf and now understands that he is able to not just play on TOUR but compete.

Already he was a runner-up at the Valspar Championship and led for a solid half-hour during the final round Open Championship play.

Regardless of his standing in the Ryder Cup picture, Woods will be a vice-captain but was asked how he would pitch his case to himself to potentially earn a spot on the team as a playing vice-captain.

Woods was very quick in his response.

What would be the word … “trending,” Woods asked with an all-too-familiar smile.

Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship announcement

At a Wednesday press conference, the PGA TOUR Champions announced the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship will be take place July 8-14 at Firestone Country Club in a 72-hole, no-cut event.

Also it was announced that Westfield will be the founding partner of the event, committing through 2022.

The Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship will have an official pro-am, the first at Firestone Country Club in 20 years on July 10 and the next day there will be the Westfield Legends pro-am for golfers 60 years and older.

After the Westfield Legends pro-am is completed, there are plans for a 36-hole tournament with the current proposed format consisting of teams of two, though that has yet to be finalized.

The Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank will be a charity recipient of the event through support from both Westfield and the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS.

“Having grown up in Ohio, in the Cincinnati area and going to school in Columbus, it’s great to come back here and see our great legends come back and play this golf course,” PGA TOUR Champions President Greg McLaughlin said. “I can’t tell you the amount of excitement amongst our players in coming back here, and it’s instantly become an even bigger event than what it’s been in the past. So our Tour is honored really to come and have an opportunity to partner with Bridgestone and Westfield and all of the really great sponsors and really community support. The state of Ohio has certainly supported golf really in a tremendous way. The only thing I will tell you is you will recognize almost every player on the driving range when you come to next year’s event for the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS.¬†We’re excited about the future of being here in Akron, Ohio.”

The announcement also had executive director of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and impending same title with this event Don Padgett and president and chief executive officer of Westfield Ed Largent.

“Next year we’ll start a new chapter with the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS,” said Padgett. “We’re looking forward to SENIOR PLAYERS next year, a couple weeks earlier, July 8 through 14, and we’ll spread out I think nicely the signature events here that we have here in the area. We’ll have Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS, following week Soap Box Derby, a week off, and then the Pro Football Hall of Fame festivities. So that will be great for all our hotel partners, our restaurant partners. I think it will work really well and we’re excited for this week and then next year for a great event.”

Since Fox Chapel hosted the then Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS for three years, the event has bounced for the past four years with stops at Belmont Country Club (Belmont, Mass.), Philadelphia Cricket Club Wissahickon Course (Flourtown, Pa.), Caves Valley Golf Club (Owings Mills, Md.) and this year at Exmoor Country Club (Highland Park, Ill.).

Previously Constellation was the sponsor of the event, but when Exelon purchased Constellation, there were businesses near each of the four aforementioned sites,

Now there is a four-year agreement which means the event will be once again played at once location, now through 2022.

“I would tell you from an operational standpoint, having a permanent home for a major championship logistically is a lot better because it gives you an opportunity really to build on the community and it gives you an opportunity, which from an operational execution, certainly is far better,” said McLaughlin. “I think that the golf courses that we’ve played in the past generally have been good. I think this is probably an upgrade with all due respect to all the great clubs that we’ve played, probably an upgrade certainly in history and tradition relative to our players.”

Author: Zac Weiss