2008 WGC Bridgestone: The Beauty of the 16th at Firestone CC…

World Golf Championship, the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone CC.

World Golf Championship, the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone CC.

I arrived at Firestone CC around 6 PM on Monday. My weekly travel schedule has seemed to evolve over the past 6 months and this week’s experience confirms that it is near perfection. Having Yahoo Maps the course location I seek at first to find the Will Call. Once there I get directions to the CBS compound. I check in, make my way on to the course, taking pictures and getting my bearings for the week. This week is a treat in that the compound is near the 15th tee. Following the par 3 15th leads me to the signature hole of this “monster” golf course- the par-5 16th.

The 16th at Firestone CC- she is long and she is a beauty!

The 16th at Firestone CC- she is long and she is a beauty!

As I walk back the 70 or so yards to the modern tee my senses tell me that I am 8 years old, it’s Christmas morning, and I know there will be a special surprise. I walk to the back of the tee not glancing to see the hole yet as I want the full effect when I open my eyes from the back of the tee. I do look up to see the hole sign: Par 5, 667 Yards, 610 Meters. I do the math- definitely a three shot par 5 for me with each shot averaging over 220 yards! Truly a “monster beast” for me! I also smile in that I see the United States of America has finally gone metric, only 30 years or so after those engineering college debates I participated in. Okay Andy sarcasm will get you nowhere and 200 meters per shot sounds better!

From the back of the tips!

From the back of the tips!

I open my eyes and there she is… after a long stretch of narrow tee grass the view is framed by two bunkers on the right, trees everywhere and a hint that the hole turns slightly left and goes downhill from there. Like many masterpieces this one must be experienced one section at a time before you get the full impact of the whole work of art. It is inspiring and beautiful. So naturally appealing I dismiss the thought of wishing I had a tee in the ground with a ball atop it and my driver in my hand. At this first encounter I want to focus completely on her majesty and not be distracted by my amateurish seemingly random at times golfing behaviors.

Two bunkers and a tree guard the landing area and the corner of the 16th.

Two bunkers and a tree guard the landing area and the corner of the 16th.

The fairway landing area appears to be slightly uphill from the teeing area. As I walk down the extended tee to the fairway I reach into my back pocket for my yardage book. I want to dissect the hole with respect to yardages so I will be prepared to play it hopefully at our next encounter. Walking through a depression then more than anticipated uphill slope I arrive at the targeted area for the first shot, at least for amateurs. The knoll is 283 yards from the back of the professional tee. For them it is conceivable to carry this area to get to the downslope and points beyond. For us too from the front of the tee is more manageable at 213 yards. Interestingly enough the first sprinkler head one encounters on the fairway is labeled “Just Hit It.”

Love it! Other sprinkles have yardages but not this one! Just hit it Baby!

Love it! Other sprinkles have yardages but not this one! Just hit it Baby!

I realize that the Monster hole at Firestone CC is a topographical cape hole. I think the term “cape” refers to a piece of land jutting out into some body of water. Possibly named visually after Cape Cod of the New England variety. Is there a cape in Manhattan? No that is soup, not geography. Let’s get back to golf. A cape hole in golf rewards the riskier longer shot that carries the water with a shorter distance on the next shot. Risk-reward plain and simple.

The Monster’s topographical risk-reward is really a benefit to the longer more powerful drivers of the ball. After all who is going to lay up on the tee shot of a 667-yard hole? If you carry the 283 yards and the grassy knoll of the fairway then it is downhill from there. Even steeper downhill slopes and further driving distance reward a longer carry over the knoll. Much like the slot in the 10th fairway at Augusta National. Of course it is needless to say that you have to hit it straight where you are aiming to claim success here.

Second shot! Lay up for us mere mortals, reachable for Tiger & John Daly!

Second shot! Lay up for us mere mortals, reachable for Tiger & John Daly!

The turn to the left is an illusion off the tee. The two right bunkers grace the hillside that peaks in the roots of a large oak tree. Hit it in either of these two bunkers and you are in a hazard extraordinary. The first one further from the fairway is the worse of the two in that it is as deep as the other but its location offers nothing but that large tree and others between you and advancing the ball down the fairway. You would likely be playing out mostly sideways to the top of the knoll. The lip on the second bunker would mandate no more than an 8 or 9-iron club to be utilized in the recovery attempt.

The view at the top of the knoll reveals what only one can image when back at the tee. Here she is quickly laid out for all to see her inherent beauty. The downward slope to the fairway immediately gives one confidence that this hole can be conquered even for us mere mortals. To achieve the position at the top of the fairway knoll is to feel one has arrived, that one can be successful, that one can indeed master the subtleties of this elongated beauty.

Bunker, pond, green... Go Play!

Bunker, pond, green… Go Play!

Then reality sets in quickly! The hole is tree lined on both sides its complete length. There is one remaining fairway bunker situated exactly in the center between the tree lines. It is right in the way of the second shot! With a hillside and rough to its left there is a constricting feeling in the pit of one’s stomach. At a carry of 220 plus yards one is forced to contend with this a side hill, steeply banked fairway bunker. As it should be in the presence of greatness, even though standing at the top of a hill, one feels compelled to bow their head in reverence to something truly magnificent. This truly is the essence of golf course design.

Approach shot, 3rd shot, if you are lucky and a good golfer!

Approach shot, 3rd shot, if you are lucky and a good golfer!

Realizing the fairway bunker is not the end of the hole one gently raises their eyes to the distant green. The fairway goes right around the bunker then left around the placid water hazard in front of the green. It is at once pleasing to the eye yet challenging to the psyche. How will I play this hole? Slopes, rough, trees, sand, water- this hole has all the meaningful hazards except the contrived out-of-bounds stakes. They are likely there to the left but the ample real estate crowning this jewel dictate they are out-of-play rightly so.

Wanting to sense fully the beauty of this place I find myself almost jogging down the slope to the left fairway bunker. As a welcoming sign, the hole becomes fairly level for the remainder of the journey. Somehow I know that doesn’t mean it will be any easier yet somehow it will showcase another darling feature of this memorable golf hole. If you are in this bunker on any afternoon, let alone this Sunday afternoon, carrying the pond in front of the green is no foregone conclusion to even the best professional golfer.

A look back up the fairway, almost as beautiful!

A look back up the fairway, almost as beautiful!

I look back up the fairway with no sight of the first two bunkers or the tee. I feel enveloped by the gentle roller coaster like ride of this experience. From the start I could not see the end and from the end I will not see the start yet I know of its entirety all the time. Am I in love with this golf hole? But what of her relatives, the other 17 holes? I am definitely smitten, as you would be too. Surely this is one of the greatest holes in golf on the planet Earth.

If you manage to avoid the bunker and are in its vicinity then all you have left is about a 150-yard shot. To a sliver of a green encroached tightly to the guarding water hazard. A back left bunker for the power pull hitters and deep rough all around confronts the golfer as they make their final approach shot on this golf hole.

Gosh, what a beautiful golf hole!

Gosh, what a beautiful golf hole!

The green is not of the “buried elephant” variety of the 14th at Augusta National yet it does have pronounced variants on its general countenance of back-to-front slope. The most tragic being the swale front left guarding the traditional Sunday hole location, which leads a ball with too much spin to a watery death. There is certainly tragedy amidst the beauty of this hole. Maybe that is why she is so memorable.

Somehow I emerge from the captivity of the 16th hole and walk over to the tee of the 400-yard par-4 17th hole. This hole is decidedly uphill especially in the narrowing fairway area between the fairway bunkers. Will the professional golfers lay up short or try to power the ball onto the flatter fairway above the bunkers and be rewarded with a short pitch into the green? The cross-bunker guarding the 17th green is familiar to me yet I have never seen it before. I viewed it many times on television growing up. The nostalgia and history of Firestone CC is beginning to overwhelm me.

The 18th is a wonderful finishing hole- 464 yards downhill with trees right and left to a tight landing area. The tightness of the landing area is further constricted by two large pin oaks in front of the green. Like centurions, they guard the left and right insuring only the most perfect approach shots pass by without interference. With bunkers short left and long right this green angled to the fairway is well protected. This hole is memorable to me from the great Tiger Woods-Jim Furyk finishes here.

There is nobody around on this beautiful summer evening. Feeling the urge of nature I head to the portable toilets only to find them all with locks in place preventing my entry. Luckily the handicap version does not have a lock. There must be a law in Ohio that one can not lock a handicap bathroom?

I swing by the clubhouse. This is a classically laid out golf course with Nos. 1 & 10 tees coming from and Nos. 9 & 18 greens coming to the clubhouse. At Firestone this layout is enhanced with No. 16 green and No. 17 tee being located just beyond the 18th green. Like the 16th tee there are several (well most- Nos. 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14) where the tees are extended back from the previous green to lengthen the Monster. After holing out, the players walk back to the next tee and the caddies head across and up to the landing areas of the next fairway. At par 70 and 7,400 yards Firestone CC is a formidable modern test of golf. I bet the original yardage in 1920 when Bert Way designed the course was somewhere around 6,200 yards.

I head out No. 1 to see some of the front nine. I don’t think there is a weak hole on this golf course. No. 1 is a 399-yard par-4 similar to No. 17 in that it is short, tight and has a well bunkered difficult to putt green. No. 2 is brilliant in that the fairway landing area is sloped drastically from right to left. No. 3, a 442 yard dog leg right par-4, lures you in with a downhill drive to a flat landing area, only to be confronted with a carry the water hazard second shot. I have seen photographs of this hole somewhere before. The tee shot on the 469-yard par-4 6th hole is blind. Firestone CC seemingly has all the design features a golfer would want to be tested by in a golf course. My camera runs out of batteries and storage space on the 7th hole.

Freshly recharged and with renewed capacity, I came back on Wednesday afternoon for one more look at Firestone CC before the tournament commences and to take a few more pictures. I have taken over 300 pictures of Firestone CC this week. Hopefully I can share them with you one day soon!

A WGC (World Golf Championship) is right up there with the four Majors and THE PLAYERS Championship. A great and renown golf course. A top field including many international players. In fact a WGC may be the place to go to see the best representation of golfers from around the world. Along with the PGA TOUR, a WGC is a product of 5 other tours- the Asian Tour, the PGA TOUR of Australia, the European Tour, the Japan Golf Tour, and the Sunshine Tour (South Africa).

Pic with Boo Weekley.

Pic with Boo Weekley.

I decide to go over and walk holes 8 and 9 into the clubhouse area. Steve Stricker is practicing teeing off No. 8. I see Brandt Snedeker and Boo Weekley on No. 9 tee. I play spectator, get Boo’s autograph and a picture with him. I wish him well this week. I check out the Professional Caddies tent just past the pro shop on the driving range side of the clubhouse. This event has a major feel and the caddie tent is really an air-conditioned temporary but rigid structure- very nice indeed. I am surprised when I open the door and see Colin Montgomerie sitting there at a table chatting with two other guys. One is his caddy (must have paid his admission?) and the other guy looks like Mark James but is not.

I read a posted memo from Rick George (from the PGA TOUR?) to PGA TOUR Caddies regarding Caddies Blocking Camera Shots… cooperation greatly appreciated… yadda yadda. I use to write some memos like that when I was in corporate America. Never read, never effective. “Get your big A—out of the way” would be more eye catching. Or why not a highlight film showing the best shots blocked by caddies never to be seen by you and me? Players understand the entertainment and business perspectives of the game of golf. So too should professional caddies. What makes a caddie a professional caddie? Like golfers, acceptance of money? Is your caddie at your club therefore a professional caddie? Get your butt out of the line of my play…

Pic with Colin Montgomerie.

Pic with Colin Montgomerie.

I am trying to pass time as I am hoping there will be an “awkward moment” (no not the Seinfeld type) when Colin gets up to leave and I can ask him for a picture. I pick up the newspaper to read the front page headline “Between HOF and GOLF no Rooms to be Found.” You can’t always believe what you read in the paper, as I had no problem finding a room. In fact I lucked out and got a suite for what they are paying for one night. Maybe I got the last room available?

I chat with the volunteer tent watcher. I realize I am “inside the ropes,” hence Colin’s presence here and wonder why he did not give me the boot. Must be I am looking all too familiar on tour as I know it is looking all-familiar (but not too) to me. He’s a really nice guy as all volunteers are at least the ones I have met. He’s interested in my story and I tell it while also giving him a few tips on how to operate my camera. Colin rises, the moment is here and he agrees. The picture is taken, well not really as the volunteer thought he had it but did not. There is a reason he is not a volunteer for the media. I chase Colin outside and quite surprisingly he agrees to a second staging and the volunteer gets this one right. Maybe Colin’s reputation at least to us Americans is all-wrong?

I go by the SHOTLink trailer and pander for the open SHOTLink position. They all know me by now maybe too well to hire me? Really good guys and gals. I could do a great job especially working with and training the volunteers. Please hire me is my departing good karma thought shared with only myself.

I head up to the practice chipping area. A nuclear engineer from Pennsylvania and I get chatting. He mentions that Colin Montgomerie was out here chipping and he can’t believe how badly he was chipping. I told him sometimes they play games and work on different things. He did not believe me. He said he had a job interview trying to get on a project to build a state-of-the-art nuclear plant. Gas is $4 a gallon but coming down since the elections are near. I think America is finally going to go nuclear. Hopefully it will help my friends in the plastics business too!

Pic with Stewart Cink.

Pic with Stewart Cink.

I watch Stewart Cink chipping and see he has a good touch around the greens. He won the Travelers and won previously here (2004 WGC- NEC Invitational). I head up to the putting green and see Lee Westwood and Kenny Perry stroking it around. I watch to see if anyone touches Kenny for good luck but no one does. He’s as hot as a pistol so maybe he will win this week? Pistol Pete Maravich. Kicking Butt Kenny Perry? Wait until September at Valhalla in the Ryder Cup. Kenny leaves and I get a picture with him too! Spectator day for Andy Reistetter, once a fan always a fan!

Pic with Kenny Perry.

Pic with Kenny Perry.

I meet the most interesting people on golf courses, especially at PGA TOUR events. This rather attractive lady has about 5 kids around her. They all have bags with plenty of signed golf balls. One of the kids follows Perry all the way to the clubhouse yet comes back hollering that she got it! The mom shows me her golf ball with a phone number written on it. Evidently a golfer provided a special souvenir for her. Quite a classy lady she would not reveal whom the golfer was nor would her well-behaved children. I remarked that she looked like a trophy wife without the wedding ring and her response was ”trophies are replaced by younger trophies.”  Very interesting life out here on the PGA TOUR at times…

Report time for CBS Sports on Thursday morning is 11AM. There are 27 groups of 3 in the field. I am assigned Group No. 27- the last group off No. 10 in the afternoon: Niclas Fasth from Sweden; American Charles Howell III; and David Howell from England. With a 1:21 PM tee time I have plenty of time to meet my new friends Dan & Denny, enjoy a pasta lunch and meander down to the 10th tee.

I start my daily tradition of walking down the famed 16th hole. As I emerge from the CBS compound I see the last group of the morning off No. 1 on the 14th green: Vijay Singh from Fiji- the BIG Fijian; lefty Richard Green from Australia; and lefty American Steve Flesch. I wonder what the odds of three lefties playing together would be? I check out the scoreboard at the 15th green and see that Retief Goosen has posted a 4-under 66 and that Vijay is at 4-under through 14 too. I watch him leave a 20 footer for deuce short on 15 green and then walk over to the knoll on 16 fairway to watch their tee shots. Vijay carries the 300 yard knoll but the ball bounces up with no roll. The course has not yet dried out from yesterday afternoon heavy downpour. I hear on the radio Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson birdies his first three holes and Paul Casey almost double eagles (a.k.a. an albatross) the par 5 second hole. I enjoy my stroll down the 16th hole and make my way across in front of the clubhouse to the 10th tee.

Niclas Fasth is 36 years old, turned pro in 1993 and regularly competes on the European Tour. He has won six times on the European Tour, most recently in 2007. He was 5th on the Order of Merit in 2007, currently No. 83 after 16 events. He qualified for the WGC-Bridgestone by being 50th in the Official World Golf Ranking as of July 21, 2008.

Niclas got off to a shaky start driving it into the right rough on No. 10. He muscled it out of the rough well short of the green where he pitched up brilliantly to save par. On No. 12 he was in the left rough and so this day on the course would proceed in a military fashion. He bogeyed No. 14 after missing the green long into a sand bunker and missing a 5-foot par putt. On his second nine the front nine he followed 3 bogeys at 1,4, and 8 with 3 birdies at 2,5, and 9. Shooting a 1-over par 71 he hit 8 fairways, 12 greens, got it up and down 5 out of 8 attempts with 30 putts.

Charles Howell III is well known to American golf fans growing up in Augusta, Georgia and playing golf for Oklahoma State University.  He will be 30 next June and turned pro in 2000. He has won twice on the PGA TOUR most recently the 2007 Nissan Open at Riviera CC.  He qualified as a member of the victorious 2007 Presidents Cup team.

Charles got off to a solid start hitting the first 5 greens but missing 3 birdie putts in the 10-12 foot range. He bogeyed No. 17 failing to get it up and down from the rough greenside rough. He turned it around on his backside (the front 9) recording 3 birdies and shooting a 32. Overall he shot 68 (-2) for the day hitting only 6 fairways, 12 greens, getting it up and down 6 out of 7 times with 28 putts.

David Howell is 33 and turned pro in 1995. He is best known for outplaying and beating Tiger Woods on the final day in the inaugural HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai in 2005. He has five European Tour victories beginning with the 1999 Australian PGA Championship but none on the US PGA Tour.  He qualified as a member of the 2006 European Ryder Cup team.

David had the best showing of the threesome on the first 9 (Nos. 10-18) shooting a 1-under par 34. His 3 birdies on 12,15, and 17 were offset by a double bogey on the famed 16th hole. Seemingly in control his lay-up on the 16th was in the fairway. His approach shot nicked a tree along the right side and splashed in the water.

On the front 9 his birdie at No. 3 was weighted down by bogeys at hole Nos. 4 and 6. Carding an even par round of 70 he hit 8 fairways, 9 greens, got it up and down 7 out of 10 times with only 25 putts. David Howell- an exciting golfer to watch!

Other Thursday Round 1 Notes:  Vijay Singh out in the morning had it to 5-under but settles for a 3-under 67 after double bogeying the 18th hole.  Retief Goosen (66) leads by 1 over 4 others- Vijay, Tim Clark, Daniel Chopra, and Zach Johnson.

I like how they keep the groups the same and change the tee times the first two days of the tournament. The group I had on Thursday the very last in the afternoon becomes the very last of the morning tee times. So the very last is at least not the very first the next day. You can sleep in a little but not much.

My assignment for Friday Round 2 is Group No. 26 going off the 10th tee at 1:10 PM: American Vaughn Taylor, Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal, and Australian Geoff Ogilvy. Vijay Singh is in the final group of the day right behind us.

Vaughn Taylor is 32 and turned pro in 1999. He has won twice on the PGA TOUR both being the Reno-Tahoe Open back-to-back in 2004 and 2005. He qualified for this WGC as a member of the 2006 Ryder Cup team.

Pablo Larrazabal is 25 and was born in Barcelona, Spain. He turned pro in  2004, played the European Challenge Tour last year and won a tour card at Q School. He qualified by winning the 2008 Open de France ALSTOM.

Geoff Ogilvy needs no introduction. Winner of the WGC-CA at Doral CC in Miami earlier this year and the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot. Geoff also won the 2006 WGC- Accenture Match Play making him eligible this week with a win to match Tiger as the only winner of all three WGC events.

Vaughn Taylor started off with a bogey on the 10th hitting his iron approach long. He also bogeyed 15 and 16 failing to get it up and down from around the green. I am not sure what he did at the turn but he dialed in his iron play for the second nine (Nos. 1-9). He birdied 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 8 and had a twelve-foot putt for 28 on No. 9. Missing that he settled for a 6-under 29 netting a 67 for the day. He hit 12 fairways, 13 greens, got it up-and-down 2 out of 5 times, with 28 putts. Certainly the lowest 9-hole score I have witnessed to date- it was spectacular!

Pablo Larrazabal (no middle name Marie?) was all over the course and like Seve had a masterful recovery on his first hole getting it up and down from a long way down the fairway after hitting it in the left rough. On No. 14 he wasn’t so lucky hitting a tree and chipping out a second time ending up with a double bogey. On No. 6 it was even uglier taking three shots to recover, then 3-jacking for a triple bogey. He did eagle No. 2 from 15 feet and holed a greenside sand shot for birdie on No.8. Exciting golfer to watch- the next Sergio for sure!

Pablo shot a 5-over 75 with 30 putts. He hit only 5 of 14 fairways but managed to hit 9 greens. He got it up and down 6 out of 8 attempts including the holed out sand bunker shot on No. 8. Definitely a talent to watch as his golf game matures.

Geoff Olgivy shot a 3-under 67 but missed so many 10-15 foot putts that I lost count and I keep notes as you can tell. He was even on his first nine bogeying No. 15 by fluffing a flop shot and then played No. 16 masterfully securing the birdie with a 10-foot putt. He shot 3-under on the front nine birdieing Nos. 1, 2, and 6. He hit 12 fairways, 13 greens, and got it up and down 5 out of 6 times. Truly a round where you feel the difference between 67 and 63 is putting!

Vijay Singh leads Phil Mickelson by one stroke after two rounds of the WGC- Bridgestone. At a WGC Friday is not cut day as there is no cut. Saturday is still moving day- players wanting to position themselves to win in Sunday afternoon. The field is realigned from worse to best scores and paired in twosomes for the weekend. For Round 3 of the tournament my assignment was Group No. 11 off the first tee at 12:30 PM: Ian Poulter and Tim Clark. I am excited to see the course from the first hole on and see if the Thursday/Friday pattern of easier front nine, more difficult back nine holds true.

Ian Poulter, that colorful character from England is likely familiar to all. He had a strong finish 2 weeks ago at The Open at Royal Birkdale finishing second alone to Padraig Harrington. I remember him from the US Open at Torrey Pines when on Friday he came to the 16th tee and promptly withdrew from the tournament with only three holes left to play. Evidently he injured his wrist swatting the ball around and 4-putting the 15th hole. Quite a different performance than say a Tiger Wood playing with a sore knee.

Ian is 31 and turned pro in 1994. He has won seven times on the European Tour but has not won yet on the US PGA Tour. He started the round well with a two-putt birdie at No. 2. On the third hole the hole was located front right with the water before and the right sand bunker behind. He courageously went for the hole but wound up in  the bunker with a very difficult lie and shot, which resulted in bogey. He then went on to birdie Nos. 4 and 5 but lost the momentum with a bogey on No. 9 failing to get it up and down from short of the green.

On the back nine he birdied 10 with a 10-foot putt then added a bogey at the difficult par-3 15th hole using the putter three times from the back fringe. Over all he shot a 1-under par 69 hitting 12 fairways, 11 greens, getting it up-and-down 4 out of 7 times with 29 putts. No movement on moving day.

A lot of people call Tim Clark from South Africa “wee” or “little” Timmy Clark because of his size.  He is 32 and stands at 5’7”. He is remembered for finishing second to Phil Mickelson at the 2006 Masters. He splits his time between the US (18 starts this year) and the European (7 starts this year) Tours. He has a solid record this being the fifth consecutive year on the PGA TOUR- surely one of those guys that will break through with a big win sometime soon.

Tim did not have a good day starting off with a bunkered tee shot on No. 1 that led to a bogey. He came back with a birdie on No. 2 and had all pars the rest of the way with the exception of a bogey at No. 8 after bunkering his approach shot. Shooting a respectable 1-over par 71 without his A-game indicates he can play with the best of the pros minimizing the bad days and capitalizing on the good days. He hit only 8 fairways, 9 greens, and got it up-and-down 9 out of 12 times with 26 putts. Scrambling man! He had only 11 putts on the front nine successfully chip-putting it four times to pad the statistics.

After my group finished I went over to N. 16 to watch the action. Phil Mickelson in the last group with Vijay Singh hit his drive 363 yards and then from 260 yards out hit it onto the green but ended up in the back bunker. Phil got it up and down for birdie while Vijay used all the hole to sink his birdie putt. They were leading at 9-under. Vijay then bogeyed 17 while Phil bogeyed 18 after carelessly nipping one of those guardian trees. Lee Westwood birdied 17. The day ended with Phil, Vijay, and Lee tied at 8-under with Stuart Appleby one stroke behind at 7-under.

Sunday at the WGC Bridgestone was another perfect day for golf. In fact all four days of tournament competition have been outstanding weather and competition wise. My assignment today is Group No. 13, which consists of Paul Casey from England and Nick O’Hern from Australia. A WGC means an international field. Of the ten players I have spotted for this week only two have been Americans. I walk down No. 16 marveling in its creative design and beauty just as I have the previous three days. When oh when will I get a chance to play Firestone CC? It is an awesome course one which I would put at the same level of Augusta National, TPC Sawgrass, Pebble Beach, the Old Course at St. Andrews, and Carnoustie to mention a few.

Paul Casey is a world golfer. He is 31, turned pro in 2000, and has won eight times on the European PGA Tour. He seemed to have the look in his eye and to be in “the zone” from the get-go. He shot a bogey-free 5-under par round of 65 in a seemingly effortless manner. If some putts could have fallen it could easily have been a 60 or maybe even 59.  He missed putts of 25, 25, 30, 15, 12, 16, 15, 40, 26, 26, and 15 for birdie while making ones of 30, 26, 15, 4, and 7 feet. He hit 12 fairways, 15 greens, got it up-and-down three times with 29 putts. No other golfer matched his round of 65 on Sunday

Interestingly enough I was asked “to sell him” after his birdie on No. 12 got him to 6-under a few strokes behind the leader. I promptly did sharing that he had hit every green and every fairway up to that point. Of course I jinxed him as he missed the green on No. 13 and then the fairway on No. 14. It was an exciting round to watch!

Nick O’Hern- a product of the PGA Tour of Australia is 37 and turned pro in 1991. Only person to beat Tiger Woods in two professional matches (WGC-Accenture 2005 & 2007). He has won five times on the Australia tour but not yet on the European or US tours. Nick played like Tim Clark did yesterday- a scrappy, professional, post a score while not playing your best. He shot 1-over 71 with all pars except a birdie on No. 2 and two bogeys on Nos. 6 and 16. He hit 10 fairways, 10 greens, and got it up-and-down 6 out of 8 times with 30 putts.

It was an exciting Sunday finish at the WGC-Bridgestone at Firestone CC in Akron, Ohio. Moseying on over to my place in the shade at the 16th green I was able to witness most of the drama. A 3-way tie at 10-under for Vijay, Phil, and Lee Westwood. Lee bogeys No. 14. Phil’s birdie putt at 16 hangs on the right lip- no birdie, no lead. Lee Westwood and Vijay Singh in the final group. Vijay lands approach at hole, one big bounce and zippers it back to three feet. Lee just misses his birdie attempt and it seems like he will be one stroke short just like at the US Open at Torrey Pines. But then Vijay lips his putt out. Mickelson bogeys 17 after bogeying 15 and not birdieing 16. Vijay stripes his drive up No. 17 fairway. Phil in left rough jail on No. 18 and finishes bogey-bogey to lose the tournament. Vijay hits a great drive in the fairway on No. 18. Lee Westwood guts it out with a solid iron shot into 18 green but misses the 15 footer to tie. Vijay finishes par-par and wins the tournament. Vijay first. Lee Westwood and Stuart Appleby tie for second. Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen, the first round leader tie for fourth.

One final walk up the famed 16th hole at Firestone CC and I am out of here heading to the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills CC outside of Detroit, Michigan.

Andy Reistetter is a freelance writer. In 2008 he followed the PGA TOUR volunteering for the tournaments and working part time as a spotter for NBC Sports, CBS Sports, and The Golf Channel. He resides in Ponte Vedra Beach where he is hoping to land a position in the golf business that allows him to pursue his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through his website www.MrHickoryGolf.net or by e-mailing to Andy@MrHickoryGolf.net.