6:08 p.m. Deja vu, all over again for Jim Furyk and shades of 2001 when he and Tiger Woods had that legendary seven-hole playoff showdown on this same course. As if we had any nails left to bite; on 18, Furyk hits just atop the bunker to the left of the pin on his second shot. Then he's followed by Bradley. Who hits into the sand. Furyk chips over the trap -- normally so sure on the short game -- but leaves it short of the hole. Bradley gets out of the sand but has to putt back to the hole. He drains the putt to finish the hole at par and set up Furyk to a must-have putt for a bogey and a playoff. If he misses, the match goes to Bradley. If he makes it, it's a playoff.
Jim Furyk missed the putt.
The difference in what happened on the final two strokes of the final hole of the final round: Bradley wins $1.4 million dollars, while Furyk and Steve Stricker tie for second and both take home $665,000. It's a $735,000 difference.
Keegan Bradley (at left, during a news conference following his victory) is the 2012 World Golf Championship winner on a single stroke victory over the man who held the lead in this tournament from start to almost finish, but couldn't hold the lead on the final hole. Bradley wins with a -13 267 for the tournament.
"My hope standing on the 18th tee was to make birdie and maybe force a playoff. But you know, I just -- just from being out here, you just never know what's going to happen, especially with that pin on 18," Bradley told reporters shortly after the match. "My second shot in was probably about the purest shot I hit all day, and it just motored on me. I hit 9-iron from 65. I might have been a little jacked up, but it all worked out."
"Just feels so great. I kept having memories of last year creep into my head a little bit. I had a putt on 13, it was an identical putt basically that I missed, and it kind of went downhill from there, so I was thinking about it and it just felt so strong coming down the stretch, and most of all I just enjoyed every minute of it."
On Furyk: "It makes it sweeter because of the caliber of player Jim is, such a great guy, Jim, and he's been so great to me...I really look up to the guy, and to be coming down the stretch with a guy like Jim Furyk battling is -- you dream about it," Bradley said. "I don't think Jim collapsed at all. I went out and played a very good round; I shot 31 on the back side. And Jim played great. He hit a good shot in on 18, very similar to my shot, where the wind was swirling a little bit and we felt like it was in."
"It's moments like that where you kind of have to pinch yourself, where two years ago, three years ago I was in Hawkinsville, Georgia, playing on the Hooters Tour grinding it out. It's just an amazing experience."
Furyk double-bogeys 18, leaving him tied with Steve Stricker who, like Bradley, shot a scorching six under for the round. Furyk and Strickler both ended the final round at -12, both at 268. Louis Oosthuizen was alone in fourth place at -11 with Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy finishing the match at -8.
Of the final round, Furyk said the start seemed like a "dream start, birdieing the first three. Really had a lot of control of the golf ball today." He complimented Bradley for playing "...a heck of a back nine. He made four birdies on the back maybe, and unbelievable saves at 17 and 18. He did everything he needed to do to win the golf tournament."
"I didn't putt particularly well on the back side. I putted very well on the front, I thought. But to just -- I think right now I'm just a little bit in shock with the way I finished up. I turned a 5 into a 6 and lost the golf tournament on the last hole. There's no way I should have made double bogey," Furyk added. "I've known it's a cruel game for a long time, and I guess we're pretty -- I feel bad for what happened to Adam (Adam Scott, who lost the British Open in the final round to Ernie Els) but I think that it doesn't affect you when it's not you, if that makes sense."
"I've lost some tournaments in pretty poor fashions, but I don't think I've ever let one slip nearly as bad as this one. This was my worst effort to finish off an event."
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5:12 p.m. Just. Wow. Keegan Bradley sets the tournament record for most birdies, at 23, and battles to within one stroke of Jim Furyk. But even the Monster couldn't tame the top five above the rest of the pack on the leader board, as Furyk, Bradley, Stricker, Oosthuizen and Rose ALL birdied the 16th hole going into the final play of the championship round.
With two holes to go Furyk is hanging on to his -14 lead by a whisker, one stroke in front of the charging Bradley is is now six under for the round. Steve Stricker moved into a tie for third with Lois Oosthuizen with both three shots off Furyk's pace, but that's still enough to leave Furyk fans on the edge of their seats.
4:42 p.m. Jim Furyk has played the steady, protect the lead final round after starting out with three birdies, two pars and a bogey before settling down for par from seven through 14. In the same stretch since the seventh hole, pairing partner Keegan Bradley shot four birdies to come within one stroke of Furyk. Both got off the 15th hole with par.
The difference between first place and second place is more than just bragging rights and FedEx Cup standings; there's the matter of a $550,000 advantage in first v second.
3:43 p.m. With half of the field either finishing on on their final holes, it's still Jim Furyk's match to lose in a remarkable display of control as he maintains a two-stroke lead over Keegan Bradley with both heading into the final five holes here at Firestone Country Club. Louis Oosthuizen is three strokes back as this threesome continue to lead the rest of the pack, with Steve Stricker (-9), Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy (both -7) rounding out the top five.
Furyk (photo, left, www.PGATour.com) birdied his first thee holes and had a bogey on six, but otherwise has hit par on every hole. Bradley is having one of the hottest rounds, with four birdies. IF -- and that's a big IF -- Furyk can hold the lead then he's projected to move up 15 rankings in the FedEx Cup standings to the top ten. This can understandably be called a Furyk-friendly course; he's had seven top ten finishes here on Firestone South, secondly only to Tiger Woods who's enjoyed nine top ten finishes, ten of them for the title. Woods could make it ten if his four under performance holds through the final round. Woods finished the round today with a 66, for a tournament total of 276.
Many will remember the fantastic finish in 2001 when Woods and Furyk battled in an epic seven-hole playoff that eventually saw Tiger take the win.
On today's outing, Tiger said he "...putted well the last two days, which was good. I made some putts. And more importantly, I hit the ball on my start lines, and that's something I did not do the first couple days." Woods says he is "very excited about going into next week." The PGA Championship will be held in Kiawah, South Carolina for the final major of the season.
Those farther back in the pack are playing for money and points in the FedEx Cup standings; Tiger Woods, for example, moved up in the standings considerably to finish at four under for the day and four under overall to tie for ninth. Problem is, there are eight others tied for ninth still on the course, and the difference between ninth and tenth in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational is $15,000. Ninth place finishers earn $160,000 while tenth place finishers see a $145,000 payday. Tiger had four birdies on today's final round and shot par on the remaining holes.
The total 2012 purse breakdown awards the top finisher $1,400,000. Second takes home $850,000, third $480,000 before the award totals drop below $100,000 with a 15th place finish. Last place still takes home a $40,000 paycheck.
Webb Simpson did not play and won't earn a check from this year's WGC Bridgestone Invitational.
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BREAKING: gates opening now (11:05 a.m.) and play expected to resume at 12:00 on the Firestone South Course after a two and a half hour thunderstorm delay. Ground crews are busy getting the course back in shape as spectators start moving back onto the course and shuttle buses renew their travel schedule from satellite parking lots for the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational.
It was like the heavens just opened up and everyone with a rain bucket decided to pour over the greater Akron area - especially on Firestone Country Club's fabled South Course, where the final round is underway of the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational.
At least, some of the final round is underway. Play was suspended and the gates to the course were closed, as players, PGA officials and volunteers scrambled along with spectators for shelter from pelting rains. WGC tournament executive director Don Padgett III was ready for this contingency with an eye toward the radar, and expected rains until at least noon. The rains were at their heaviest between 9:30 and 9:45 and have lessened to a constant but lighter rainfall.
Gates will reopen at 12:30 for spectators and players to begin resuming play; Firestone Country Club grounds officials say it'll take about 20 minutes to prepare the tees and greens for golfers to get to work. At this point, spectators arriving at satellite parking lots around the Firestone Country Club are being asked to hold off on taking shuttles with concerns there won't be enough shelter in and around the course. Most remained in their vehicles through the downpour; even the volunteers stationed at the parking lots fled to nearby cars to get out of the rain.
The good news: radar looks good after the noon resumption of play with clearing skies behind the storm front. Tournament officials can't recall anytime when play in the WGC has spilled over to Monday, but that's always an option if they haven't completed the final championship round by nightfall.
As play was called some of the field managed to get some of their play in; golfers managed to at least get through the first six holes of their rounds before play was called with about half the field on the course when the rains started. Notably among them: Tigers Woods, through two and now one under; Bubba Watson after three and three under while Phil Mickelson is through five at two over.