Ernie Els will be reunited with Adam Scott for the first time since their Open Championship tussle at this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where the Australian will defend his title.
Els captured his fourth Major Championship at the unfortunate Scott’s expense at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club a fortnight ago, but the 32 year old from Adelaide will be hoping to gain a measure of revenge upon his return to Akron, having beaten a world-class field to seal his maiden World Golf Championship title there 12 months ago.
By his own exceptionally high standards, Els – twice a winner of the WGC-Cadillac Championship – boasts a relatively modest record at Firestone Country Club, with a fifth place finish on debut in 1999 his best performance in 12 visits to Ohio.
But having lifted the Claret Jug for the second time, the 42 year old from Johannesburg will now be confident of adding a third WGC title to his bulging trophy cabinet – with victory almost certain to bring the added bonus of elevating Els to the top of The Race to Dubai.
Els is one of 36 European Tour Members in the elite 78-man field, which includes the English duo of World Number One Luke Donald and current Race to Dubai leader Justin Rose, who won his first World Golf Championship title at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March.
Donald, who finished in a tie for fifth place behind Els at The Open Championship, will be hoping to go one better in Akron this time, having finished joint runner-up alongside American Rickie Fowler last year.
It was Donald’s third top ten finish in seven appearances at Firestone Country Club and, following the renaissance of Tiger Woods, the Englishman will need another strong showing in order to retain his status as the world’s highest-ranked golfer.
After winning three times on the US PGA Tour this season and finishing third at Royal Lytham & St Annes, Woods is closing in on a return to the top of the World Ranking, and a record eighth victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational victory could end Donald’s nine week reign as World Number One – a position he has occupied for 54 weeks in total.
Provided Donald finishes outside the top 11, World Number Three Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland could also seal a return to the top of the tree by claiming his debut WGC title, while his friend and compatriot Graeme McDowell will be hoping to continue his fine form of late, having finished in the top five in both of his last two Major outings.
Another player in a rich vein of recent form is Italian Francesco Molinari, currently third in The Race to Dubai thanks chiefly to his victory in the Reale Seguros Open de España, together with runner-up finishes at the Alstom Open de France and the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
Molinari will go in search of his second WGC victory this week, having won the 2010 WGC-HSBC Champions, while his fellow Ryder Cup hopeful Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium – buoyed by his tied seventh finish at The Open Championship, where he opened and closed with superb rounds of 65 – will be hoping to make a big impression on his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational debut.
Colsaerts is one of 12 European Tour Members making their first appearances at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, with three-time European Tour champion Branden Grace of South Africa and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger – fresh from a stunning victory on home soil at last week’s Lyoness Open powered by Greenfinity – among them.