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2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Leaderboard: Bubba Watson, Luke Donald Tied For Early Lead

The final groups are now out on the course at Firestone as the first round of the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational progresses. The morning wave of tee times featured plenty of low numbers, and as you'd expect at a WGC event, there are lots of big names at the top of the leaderboard. Bubba Watson, Luke Donald, and Ben Crane hold the clubhouse lead after firing matching 66's to move to 4-under.

Watson had a bit of a rollercoaster round but took advantage of his length off the tee on a South course playing at 7400 yards. No. 16 is one of the longest par-5's on Tour with water protecting the front-right of the green, but Watson cruised through the monster with a birdie. It was the first of three straight as he made the turn on the back side. The long-hitting lefty then picked up an eagle on the par-5 second hole before coming in with two straight birdies to move to 4-under. Only three bogeys prevented a potential super-low round (akin to Adam Scott's opening 62 last year) in which he carded six birdies or better.

Luke Donald was right there with Watson, putting up seven red numbers in his opening round. The No. 1 player in the world began his day with three straight birdies and was threatening to shoot 30 on his inward nine before he stalled out on his final three holes. If Tiger Woods captures his eighth career win at Firestone, and Donald finishes outside the top-three, the Englishman will relinquish the top spot in the OWGR.

Most of the morning wave finished in the red, and there are currently ten players just one shot off the pace. North Olmsted native Jason Dufner and Spaniard Sergio Garcia are two of those golfers in the large group at 3-under.

Phil Mickelson, who's searching for his game as he enters the week and prepares for the links at Kiawah, shot a pedestrian 1-over 71. Mickelson's round went south during a tough two-hole stretch that included a double bogey at No. 3 and a bogey at the difficult par-4 fourth hole.

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For complete coverage of the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, stay with thisStoryStream. For all your golf news in the run up to the season's final major, visit SB Nation's golf hub.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.