• Betting Bunker

Woods closing on return to top rank

Josh Williams August 1, 2012
Adam Scott and Steve Williams got the job done last year - they arrive in different circumstances this time around © PA Photos
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Click here to bet on the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at bet365

It's a case of pick your preferred sub-plot at the intriguing WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this week, which takes place at the Firestone course.

There are plenty to choose from, one week away from the year's final major, the US PGA Championship. Perhaps the two most appealing are Tiger Woods' potential return to the world No. 1 spot, and Adam Scott's comeback following his Open implosion.

Woods, who has won seven of his 16 WGC titles at Firestone, needs to take home the title in order to re-assume top rank - and hope that Luke Donald does not finish runner-up alongside no more than one other.

It would be a remarkable turnaround for Woods, a three-time victor on the PGA Tour this year, as he slipped outside the world's top 50 last October, his game apparently in total disarray.

Scott is another man seeking to showcase his powers of recovery, having thrown away the title at Lytham last month with a finish of four bogeys on the spin. Firestone has been a happy hunting ground for him: he won this tournament last year, prompting Steve Williams, his caddie and formerly Woods' bagman, to say it was the "best win of my life".

Williams' wagers

  • Bubba Watson E/W - 30/1 at bet365
    Bo Van Pelt E/W - 40/1 at bet365

I hope Scott does go well this week: it was hard not to feel sorry for him when that par-putt, which would have earned him a play-off with Ernie Els at the Open, failed to drop and caused him to sink to his knees in disbelief. But do I trust him at odds of 18/1? Well, no.

Woods is more interesting: he's in form and has a history of Firestone success - but he's going to have to take the driver at this formidable 7,400-yard, par-70 track, and he was so reluctant to use that club at The Open, given a recent tendency to miss the fairway by some distance. At 9/2 you're really looking at whether he or not he can win - and, while I feel he'll get a place, I don't feel there's much value in taking him to triumph.

I see the tournament playing into the hands of a long-hitter, given the yardage and recent drought conditions in Ohio, which have left the rough thin and wispy - meaning players should be able to get some purchase on their iron shots if tee-shots are errant.

Bubba Watson, the Masters champion, stands out at 30/1: he leads the tour in greens hit and GIR from lies off the fairway, is a monstrous driver of the ball - and held the first-round lead here two years ago on his first appearance (he has a pair of top-25 finishes).

Also, let's shine the light on Bo Van Pelt who, quietly, has amassed seven top-tens this season, including runner-up at the AT&T National last month. He's fourth on tour for total driving, 31st in greens hit and ninth in the strokes-gained-through-putting charts (the greens can be pretty lively at Firestone, so that's useful). Throw a third at the event in 2010 into the mix, and 40/1 seems a more than fair price.

Please note that odds are correct at time of publication and are subject to change.

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Josh Williams is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk