Kenny Perry Kenny Perry, others grab the spotlight at Tiger-less WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

After it was revealed that Tiger Woods would miss the remainder of the year due to a knee injury following his U.S. Open victory, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem suggested that the lone bright side of Woods' injury is that other lesser-known players would have a better opportunity to step into the spotlight.

While it may have sounded hollow at the time, to a degree that has been the case of late on the PGA Tour, it's also true that entering this week's $8 million WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, players like Kenny Perry and Anthony Kim have received more attention than perhaps at any other time in their careers.

Perry, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, is 60 under in his last four events. He has played 16 consecutive rounds in par or better, shooting in the 60s in all but one of those rounds.

Propelled by his goal of making the U.S. Ryder Cup team, Perry has made the cut in 19 of 20 events in 2008 and has seven top-10 finishes as well as 12 finishes in the top 25. That kind of play, coupled with his strategy of skipping majors to participate in events he felt were better suited to his game, has made Perry a hot story this year as he's climbed to No. 16 in the world rankings.

"I've been trying to run from it a little bit," Perry told reporters. "I'm not used it, to be honest. I'm not used to everybody tugging at me a little bit."

While it has been difficult at times and has worn on Perry mentally, he said he's determined to enjoy his success, as well as the attendant attention.

"You'd better enjoy [media attention] because this is probably the only time for me," said Perry, who now owns 12 career PGA Tour victories. "We'll see. I mean, I maybe can play well the next two years, but I've thrown all my eggs in the basket for this year. This is it. I'm going for it all."

The tournament is certainly a lot more wide open this year with Woods out of the mix. The world No. 1-ranked player won for the third consecutive year and sixth time overall last year, closing with a 5-under 65 at Firestone for an 8-under 272 total and an eight-shot victory over Rory Sabbatini and Justin Rose.

"Everybody will just move up one place from where they finished in the past," Stewart Cink joked to reporters about Woods not being in the field.

Previously, Woods captured the 1999-2001 tournaments at Firestone. In 2000, he prevailed by 11 strokes, matching the course record with a 61 on his way to a tournament-record 21-under 259 total. In 2001 he beat Jim Furyk with a birdie on the seventh playoff hole.

With or without Woods, Phil Mickelson said he always looks forward to playing at Firestone. He won the 1996 World Series of Golf there and was the runner-up the next two years.

"It's fun to be back. This is one of my favorite tournaments," Mickelson told reporters. "It has been historically throughout my career. I love the way the course is set up.

"I have not played as well as I would have liked to in this event the last few years, and I'm determined to try to change that this week."

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

SCHEDULE: Thursday-Sunday
SITE: Akron, Ohio
COURSE: Firestone Country Club, South Course (7,360 yards, par 70)
PURSE: $8 million (winner's share: $1.35 million)
FEDEX CUP POINTS: 26,250 (winner's share: 4,725.
TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m., 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. EDT) and CBS (Saturday-Sunday, 1-6 p.m. EDT).

July 30, 2008

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