Spieth tops Firestone billing, no Rory or Tiger
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
AKRON, Ohio (Reuters) - Masters and U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth, the world number two, will command the spotlight at this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational where Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are both conspicuous absentees.
Top-ranked McIlroy won last year's tournament at Firestone Country Club by two shots but is unable to defend his title after rupturing a ligament in his left ankle while playing soccer with friends early last month.
Former world number one Woods has triumphed a record eight times at Firestone but is not eligible to compete in the elite (WGC) World Golf Championships event with his ranking having plummeted to a mind-boggling 262nd.
"It's tough. Unfortunately, right now, he's going through a spell where he's not playing that great," Australian world number four Jason Day told reporters about Woods' absence ahead of Thursday's opening round.
"It's kind of weird to not see him playing the events that we're usually used to seeing him playing. This is one of those events that he plays well and wins a lot here.
"Eight times, it's just amazing to even think about. Some guys are just hoping for one WGC win, let alone eight times at one venue."
Spieth would replace McIlroy at the top of the rankings should he triumph at Firestone this week as he also tunes up his game for the year's final major, the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits next week.
"I think it's really good major prep, but at the same time, this is a World Golf Championship," Spieth, 22, told reporters after practising at Firestone on Wednesday. Continued...