Pieters leads way with Spieth and McIlroy close behind

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Much of that frustration over the last while has been on the greens but Birkdale seemed to put paid to that as well as he finished the week fourth in the putting statistics and continued the good form on the lightning quick Firestone surfaces.

At the challenging 16th hole: "This is where Nicklaus made the fantastic par in the 1975 PGA to go on to win the tournament". A stone bridge by the green is being named in his honor on Wednesday.

Johnson has yet to pick up a win on the season but he does have three Top 10's on the year.

Spieth, meanwhile, has never won a WGC event.

But the 10-time PGA Tour victor still has an axe to grind with Ohio's Firestone Country Club.

The world No 1 uncorked a 439-yard effort, although sought to downplay his effort due to the assistance of a downslope on the hole. You can also get Danny Willett for a thousand less if you're into major winners who've forgotten how to play golf. It helped, of course, when he followed the 30-footer he holed at the first with two more of similar length at the second and third.

Tiger Woods is the last player to win back-to-back in Akron, 10 years ago.

"They're still the events we try to peak at and think most about every year, but this PGA if I'm healthy I'll play 30 of them it doesn't have to be this year".

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Scott won this title in 2011 and, although he has hardly been convincing of late, he has not played badly. Plus, I'm not sure he's 100 percent yet.

Johnson and Rory McIlroy are each +900.

The question is why he would ever take that putter out of play. Laura Davies, playing in her 37th consecutive Open, threatened the leaders at one stage but the 53 year old dropped five shots in her last five holes to fall back.

They're honoring Arnold Palmer this week at Firestone. He is feeling as good as ever about his game, particularly the way he finished off Royal Birkdale with the fantastic escape on the 13th hole and the birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie stretch that followed. It's the first time in this tournament for both. Hughes was 32nd at the Canadian Open. It's a year of remembering Arnold, and clearly it's well deserved when you think about what he did for golf.

McIlroy in 2014 was where Spieth is now, playing the best golf of his career with an eye towards winning the career grand slam. In 1976, the course hosted the first World Series of Golf, won by Jack Nicklaus.

Indeed, it's a big stretch of golf in a condensed timeframe. It will mark the final stop before the US PGA Championship next week.

There are four types of players: there are driver and analytic guys, and then there are amiable and expressive types. "He's essentially even, you know, with a number of terms and a number of majors". Dustin Johnson did his part with a 68. The drivers and analytic types, who prefer to practice the week before, are going to be working on their games while they are competing. He is the best on Tour in that range, and on this long track he should see a lot of shots from that distance.

Sergio Garcia, Brooks Koepka, Matt Kuchar, Hideki Matsuyama, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson are among other notables in the loaded field. A dark horse has a different definition this week when it's such a strong field. "I feel refreshed and typically that's not the case after a major like that". He added an 8-footer for another birdie on the next hole before taking the lead for good with a 15-foot birdie putt at No. 17.

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