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Keegan ready to defend Bridgestone Invitational title

8/1/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, of Thailand, practices July 29 at Firestone Country Club for the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
Cleveland native Jason Dufner tweeted about attending the Indians game July 28 and receiving a “Brohio” T-shirt from the Indians’ Nick Swisher.
Photos: Craig Marks
SOUTH AKRON — Bradley Keegan is returning to Firestone Country Club to defend his title at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, which runs today, Aug. 1, through Aug. 4. It was a year ago that he and Jim Furyk engaged in a battle that culminated in a heartbreaking, heart-stopping final hole.

As they teed up on No. 18, Furyk was leading Keegan by one shot. But Furyk’s double bogey on the final hole gave the tournament to Keegan (67-69-67-64), who finished with a par and an extra $1.4 million in his bank account. Furyk (63-66-70-69) finished tied for second with Steve Stricker.

“I’ve lost some tournaments in some pretty poor fashions, but I don’t think I’ve let one ever slip nearly as bad as this one,” said Furyk, who led for the first 71 holes.

Neither Keegan nor Furyk have won any PGA tournaments since Akron. One Firestone fan favorite who recently tasted victory is Phil Mickelson, whose dramatic win at the British Open July 21 makes him one of the golfers to watch this week. Last year, Mickelson finished the Bridgestone Invitational in a tie for 43rd place.

Tiger Woods ended last year’s tournament in an eight-way tie for eighth, with his game improving as the Invitational went on. The seven-time tournament winner’s weekend scores were 68 and 66, not enough to make up for early rounds of 70 and 72.

There will be 19 golfers making their first appearance at Firestone, including Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand. Aphibarnrat, winner of the 2013 Maybank Malaysia Open, wasted no time this week, making his way to the Firestone South Course driving range Monday around noon.

Aphibarnrat would have three days of practice rounds to become acquainted with Firestone’s most famous hole, the 667-yard No. 16 that’s affectionately known as “the Monster.”

For fans who would like an opportunity to tame the beast, the Invitational has added the “Bridgestone Green Monster Challenge.” Located behind the 18th green, it is a small-scale version of the 16th hole, complete with a pond and green modeled after the real thing.

Another addition to the tournament is Firestone Village, a new spectator area between the 10th green and the 18th tee. Among its amenities are a food court and areas for users of mobile devices. As was the case last year, fans won’t need to leave their phones in their cars. Smartphones are allowed, and there will be charging stations and Wi-Fi in specified areas.

For details on tickets, visit www.worldgolfchampionships.com or call 330-644-2299.

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