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Westwood's iron will to leave Tiger toiling

Josh Williams August 3, 2011
Tiger Woods is back - but he's probably not 100% fit © Getty Images
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Click here to bet on the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at bet365

Tiger Woods' latest comeback arrives at this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, with the American once again aiming to prove that his decline is not terminal.

The former world No. 1, who returns to competition this week for the first time since May following leg injuries, reappears at a course on which he has won seven times - a PGA Tour record.

But it seems misleading to attribute such statistics to this version of Woods, without a win since November 2009 and currently languishing way down at 28th in the rankings, between Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ernie Els.

He still doesn't look comfortable with his modified swing, his putter has been cold ever since he returned in April 2010 and he's almost certainly not 100% fit - so, from a betting perspective, let's forget about him and look at someone with a far more credible chance of victory.

Williams' wagers

  • Lee Westwood E/W to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational - 16/1 at bet365
    Bubba Watson E/W - 45/1 at bet365
    Graeme McDowell E/W - 66/1 at bet365

At the Firestone course it's impossible to escape the conclusion that the man who consistently finds greens in regulation is going to push hard for the title. The average GIR ranking of the winner over the past five years is 5.6, which is no coincidence, and it's the longest par 70 on schedule, so it helps if you are loaded with power from the tee.

So step forward Lee Westwood, who will be desperate to bounce back after a hugely frustrating missed cut at the Open Championship, where his putting was woeful. Prior to Royal St George's, he'd recorded eight successive top-15 finishes, meaning that he still has momentum behind him, despite the hiccup at the year's third major.

He's long and accurate off the tee (even missing the cut at the Open, he led the field in GIR after two rounds) and, perhaps most importantly, won't have his putting problems under the microscope at Firestone, where work on the greens is traditionally of secondary importance as iron play is imperative.

The Brit was second at this tournament in 2008 and he finished in the top ten 12 months later, which is a good enough track record for us.

Elsewhere, Bubba Watson looks overpriced at 45/1 considering he's currently second in the GIR rankings and hit a 64 here in 2010 to grab the first-round lead. The Ryder Cup star arrives in good shape, having played in the final group on Sunday at the Nordea Masters, so we're happy to take a look each-way.

Common wisdom suggests that Graeme McDowell is in the middle of a rocky period, but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact four of his last nine rounds have been in the 60s, including a 64 at Castle Stuart at the start of July. He seems to have developed the unhelpful habit of throwing in one dismal set of 18 holes across his 72, and that was never more in evidence than at the Wales Open, where he went 67-68-81.

The Ulsterman's surely going to snap out of it soon enough and, at 66/1, we reckon it's just about worth placing some faith in him, considering that he's a terrific iron player on his day and his GIR percentage on the European Tour is a highly impressive 75.16%. If you need any more convincing, we can point towards rounds of 66 and 68 at Firestone last year. Have a small play.

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