AKRON, Ohio (AP) – This is a farewell party that Tiger Woods did not want to miss.
Firestone will host the world's best players for the last time at Bridgestone Invitational, and it would not be the same without Woods. He has won it eight times, a PGA Tour record for most victories on the same golf course. Woods did not reach the top 5 in his first eleven games on the venerable South Course, seven wins. It was also the last of his 79 victories on the PGA Tour in 2013, just before back problems occurred.
2018 BRIDGESTONE INVITATION TEA TIMES AND PAIRS
Having played only four tournaments in 29 months due to four back operations, Woods returned to 1
His tie for sixth place at the British Open moved him to No. 50 on the button.
"I was just hoping for one to play the tour long enough to get an opportunity," Woods said Wednesday, his first time at Firestone in four years. "But I also had to play well to make it … and within a year to get down to 50, that's a pretty good performance, but it also got me into this event."
Bridgestone decided not to renew as title sponsor of the World Golf Championship, said to be an annual price tag of around $ 15 million. The company will sponsor Firestone's Senior Players Championship next year as the WGC event goes to Memphis, Tennessee
"This event has been something special for me over the years and it is sad that they are leaving Firestone," Woods said , "We understand it for sure, but for me, I've always had such great memories of this golf course."
Where should I start?
Was it his first win in 1999 when he defeated Phil Mickelson in one fell swoop? The next year was even better when Woods started in the dark, making one last birdie that ended in par under 21 and won by 11 strokes. He won in playoffs, which lasted four holes against Stewart Cink (in 2006) and seven holes against Jim Furyk (in 2001). He won eight shots in 2007 against Rory Sabbatini, who said earlier this year that Woods was "as bearable as ever".
"There is not just one," Woods said. "I have done it so many different ways."
– PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 1, 2018
Ticket sales increased when the number reached 50 after the British Open Woods and would be back in Firestone. He has been the face of this tournament for the past two decades, even through some rough patches as he copes with scars on and off the golf course.
It would be a fitting conclusion at Firestone for Woods to go away with another trophy, except it's not that easy. He's still won this year, and while Woods had the short fields at these World Golf Championships with 18 titles, the competition is stiffer than ever.
WATCH: What does it take to win Tiger? PGA Championship?
Dustin Johnson confirmed his position as No. 1 in the world and won the Canadian Open last week for his third PGA Tour title of the year. He won two years ago at Firestone and calls him, like Woods, one of his favorite stops of the year because he is tall, tree-lined and does not have much frills.
Rory McIlroy will finish second in the British Open. He won 2014 at Firestone, between the victories in the British Open and the PGA Championship. McIlroy has eight consecutive rounds in the 60s.
"I really think it's training horses, there are only courses that suit you better than others," McIlroy said. "Tiger proved that here with Bay Hill, with Torrey Pines, with … well, basically everywhere."
MORE: The Tale of Firestone
Woods has not been back to Firestone since 2014 when he injured his back early in the final lap. He was out of the question since then.
He raised expectations, certainly among his fans, with his strong showing at Carnoustie, where Woods had the lead for a few holes on Sunday just to fall behind with a double bogey. He landed three shots behind him with the only consolation in Firestone
"He will play well this week," said Justin Thomas. "This place is like Augusta's for him, he could probably take two or three weeks off and he'll fix it here because he knows how, he's won here as often as I've won throughout my career He grew up watching how he won many tournaments here and fired the shots in the dark … So he will feel very, very comfortable here. "
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