With 10 days to go to The Open, it remains to be seen if Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day can iron the wrinkles out of their games and beat new world No 2 Dustin Johnson to the Claret Jug.
The US Open champion showed in Akron that he’s playing better than anyone in golf right now, carding a 66 and taking advantage of a late collapse by Day to claim the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and Spieth’s world No 2 ranking.
McIlroy failed to get anything going on the final day in France but he still finished third as an immaculate Thongchai Jaidee cruised to a four-stroke win and insisted afterwards that he has time to get his game in tip top shape for Royal Troon.
He has time, of course, but whether he can have full trust in his game is debatable given the erratic nature of his performance in the Open de France, where he closed with a level par 71 to finish five behind 46 year old Jaidee.
“It’s been a good week, just to see where I’m at with my game,” McIlroy claimed. "There were signs that it was really good and heading in the right direction, and then today, again, there was sometimes that it was good. But there was a few swings I made on the back nine that just I need to sort of work on.
"I was getting quite steep with my irons, which has been a problem anyway. It's been a good week. The way I’ve felt out there and to finish third on my own, it’s been a decent week in that regard.
“I've got ten days until The Open starts. I'm going to be working every day to try to get better and play a bit of links golf and work on the shots that I'll need for Troon, as well. I'm confident where I'm at, and even though this week it didn't feel that good, I'm obviously doing some things right. So go forward and keep working hard and hopefully I’ll be ready for Troon.
“I haven't played Troon. I'm actually going to go over this week for a couple of days and sort of figure it out and see what I need to do there. It was really disappointing, especially at St. Andrews last year, not to be able to defend. The last time I played The Open I won it, so good memories, and hopefully I can play similar to the way I did in Liverpool and give myself a chance.”
Pádraig Harrington would love to swap places with McIlroy and feel like he is contending this week in the Aberdeen Asset Scottish Open to go to Troon feeling like he has a chance.
But after closing with a 67, the second best score of the day, he has every reason to believe he’s close to playing well.
After a bogey at the fourth, Harrington played the remaining 14 holes in five under par with no mistakes, getting back to level with a birdie at the seventh before racing home in 31.
In the US, there was also encouragement for Shane Lowry as he birdied the 17th and 18th for a 68 and a share of 36th in his first event back since finishing tied second behind 32-year old Johnson in the US Open.
The Bridgestone title looked destined to end up in Day’s hands as he bid to convert the 54-hole lead into a win for the sixth time running.
He was two ahead early on when he chipped in for eagle at the second and then followed a bogey at the ninth with a birdie at the 10th.
But he was never quite comfortable off the tee and Johnson closed steadily, going out in 33 to get within two shots, then reeling off birdies at the 13th, 14th and 17th to lead on seven under
Day had bogeyed the 15th to fall back to six under, then took seven at the 16th when he zig-zagged from left to right, got a free drop away from a tree when a fan was adjudged to have deliberately stopped his ball, and found water attempting a low cut third.
While Johnson bogeyed the last, catching a low branch as he tried to punch his way up to the green from the left rough, Day failed to birdie the 17th and then bogeyed the last after a pushed drive.
Revealing it is improved wedge play as much as changing from a draw to a fade that has given him more consistency and confidence, Johnson heads to Dublin this week to prepare for The Open.
As close friend of Dermot Desmond and his sons, he played at Portmarnock and Royal Dublin last year and is expected to do so again.
“It’s the first time I’ve won two tournaments in a row,” said Johnson, who takes over from Spieth as world No 2 by 0.002 world ranking points.
"I know it wasn't like two consecutive tournaments, but consecutive tournaments that I played. I mean, that's big. I’m excited and looking forward to going over to the British with the golf game in good form.”
As Spieth, Day and McIlroy work to get their games in shape, Johnson was asked what he was going to do with his game going over to Troon.
“Nothing,” Johnson said.
He’s a fan of links golf and given how relaxed and in control he feels, he’s on course to do what McIlroy did in 2014 and sandwich a Bridgestone win between two major victories.
“I like the kind of golf over there,” he said. "I enjoy it. You've got to use a lot of imagination. It's generally windy, so you use the wind. You've got to use the ground. I mean, it's completely different than what we do here. I don't know, ever since the first time I ever went over there, I've always enjoyed it, and I feel like I play pretty well over there.
"'ll go over early. I’m not sure when, but I'll go over early and play some golf and hang out, and then I'll head over to Troon on Sunday."