It was an up and down week for us at the Northern Trust with three of our players right in the hunt at halfway while three missed the cut. Come Sunday however due to Dustin Johnson’s incredible performance we were purely playing for place money and in all honesty it looked our chances on that front were done and dusted after both of our men in the mix Russell Henley and Si Woo Kim were struggling to make any real impact.
All credit to Henley though after a horror start that saw him three over for the easy first four holes he rallied to go bogey free and -6 for the rest of the way home to bag us a share of the place money and salvage us something from the week.
So onwards we go to the second week of the Fedex Cup Play Off’s, The BMW Championship.
The field has been whittled straight down to 70 players and for these 70 all eyes will now be firmly focused on making the top 30 who go on to the Tour Championship at East Lake next week.
Those ensconced at the top end of the current rankings already have their place at East Lake assured but for those outside of the current top 30 rankings there is work to be done.
The good news for these players though is that due to the far higher amount of points on offer for big finishes in these Play Off events even the guy currently ranked 70th going in to the BMW Championship can punch a ticket to East Lake with a win this week.
The BMW Championship was first introduced on to the PGA Tour in its current format in 2007.
The tournament is run by the Western Golf Association who had also historically run the BMW Championship’s predecessor the Western Open.
Since the event became one of the Fedex Cup Play Off events it has rotated around several courses predominantly in the Illinois area including Medinah, Conway Farms, Crooked Stick and Cog Hill Golf & Country Club, which was the host of the historical Western Open.
This year the event is to be held for the first time on the North Course at Olympia Fields CC in Olympia Fields, Illinois, a suburb about 25 miles South of Chicago.
Although not a complete stranger to the golfing spotlight Olympia Fields is a course rarely seen in use for big events and the last men’s professional event held here was the 2003 US Open won by Jim Furyk. More recently the course also played host to the 2015 US Amateur Championship which was won by Bryson Dechambeau.
Not much for us to go on then….
The field as would naturally be expected is a stellar one this week and quite understandably after his incredible performance last week Dustin Johnson is the clear market leader.
DJ is then followed in the market by Jon Rahm, Bryson Dechambeau and Justin Thomas.
Olympia Fields will play as a par 70 measuring 7366 yards.
The greens are Bentgrass.
The course was designed in 1915 by Scot Willie Park Jnr who in the UK is most well known for designing the Old Course at Sunningdale.
In addition to the North Course Olympia Fields CC is perhaps best known for having the worlds largest clubhouse, which took two years to build at a cost of $1.3 million back in 1925. Its 80ft clock tower and Tudor design is a symbol of the extravagant Roaring Twenties.
For the 2003 US Open the course played to a par 70 measuring 7273 yards.
The rough is expected to be at 5” and the greens and the course in general is expected to play firm and fast.
Therefore while length is always an advantage, particularly on a course, which features two par fives measuring over 600yds and a closing par four playing to 510yds, finding fairways could well be as, if not more, important this week than distance, as it would appear being in the fairway will be paramount to giving yourself a chance to position yourself correctly on the greens.
So let’s take a look at the last ten winners of the BMW Championship since 2010.
The winners of these events have been as follows;
2019 J Thomas
2018 K Bradley
2017 M Leishman
2016 D Johnson
2015 J Day
2014 B Horschel
2013 Z Johnson
2012 R McIlroy
2011 J Rose
2010 D Johnson
To me the key to the Fedex Cup Play Offs has always been momentum. From that point of view I thought I’d take a look at how the past winners here had faired in the previous Play Off events that year and you can see this in the table below.
Dell Tech Finish Northern Trust Finish
2019 J Thomas - 12th
2018 K Bradley 49th 34th
2017 M Leishman 3rd MC
2016 D Johnson 8th 18th
2015 J Day 12th 1st
2014 B Horschel 2nd MC
2013 Z Johnson 27th DNP [5th at Wyndham prior start]
2012 R McIlroy 1st 24th
2011 J Rose 68th 6th
2010 D Johnson 57th 9th
As we can see from the table above this event is historically where the momentum of the Play Off’s and recent form has really started to kick in and until Bradley’s win in 2018 all of the previous eight winners had posted a top 10 in their previous two starts coming in to the week.
Last year of course things changed slightly as we only had one Play Off event proceeding this week however Justin Thomas had played strongly at the Northern Trust the week before his victory here finishing twelfth and it is also worth mentioning he finished twelfth in his previous start as well at the WGC Fedex St Jude.
In addition as you would expect from an event that is made up of a limited field of elite players shock winners in the BMW Championship are few and far between.
The Chicago area has seen warm, dry weather of late and with more of the same forecast for this week with temperatures set to be in the 80s we seem set for firm, fast conditions.
There is the small possibility of a stray overnight storm later in the week, which could soften things up a bit but hopefully these will stay away.
The wind shows to be at around 10-12mph all through the week possibility gusting up to 15mph.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with four players this week as follows;
JON RAHM –10-1 – 4pts Win - FINISHED 1st!!!
With a relatively unknown course in play this week I have decided to focus on two angles. Firstly, based on the course reports I have picked up on I am looking for players who are solid at finding the short stuff off the tee and also strong in approach play.
Secondly, with some players already either firmly ensconced in the top 30, or the top 5 of the Fedex Cup standings, I am looking for guys who either have to produce a big week to simply make East Lake or who need to push their way up the table to have a realistic chance of bagging the big spoils next week under the handicap system.
On this basis the first player who ticks all the boxes for me this week is Jon Rahm.
Obviously a strong case can be made for anyone of the games elite, particularly Dustin Johnson who was imperious at TPC Boston. Anything close to that level from DJ this week would surely see him lift another trophy.
My hunch though is that while DJ looks sure to perform well again he will have one eye already on East Lake next week and bagging the full Fedex spoils for the first time in his career.
For Rahm however it is a different story. Currently languishing in ninth place in the standings and 1000 points behind Johnson the 1500 Fedex points on offer would send him right up the table to where he needs to be. A big week therefore is essential for the Spaniard.
Regardless of Johnson’s brilliance in Boston Rahm was never really in the conversation last week. however he closed with an eye catching 65 on Sunday to move himself in to sixth place so he should arrive in good spirits – A not too dissimilar effort to his Sunday showing at the Workday prior to his Memorial win.
Moving on and based on the information I have picked up on Olympia Fields accuracy off the tee allied to length could well be the combination this week we are looking for and at second in Total Driving in tour [44th in accuracy and 27th in distance] the Spaniard fits this bill perfectly. It is also good to see he lead the field at the Northern Trust in Strokes-Gained-Off-The-Tee
While he can’t boast the victory Dechambeau can, Rahm has experience of Olympia Fields having finished fifth at the 2015 US Amateur held here that Bryson won and this should hold him in good stead.
Finally I also like the fact that as shown by his recent win at Memorial Rahm is more than capable of handling tough green complexes.
Rahm is that rare type of player that has no particular weaknesses in his game, whether it be accuracy/length, approach play or putting and my hunch is that is what will be needed this week. On that basis I am happy to take my chances that with the winner more than likely to come from the elite the Spaniard will be the one who gets the job done.
RUSSELL HENLEY –70-1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 25th
The one player I feel compelled this week to give another chance to from last weeks team is Russell Henley.
Henley rewarded our faith in him last week with a three way share of eighth place, which having been onboard at 125/1 was not to be sneezed at.
Early on Sunday the three time tour winner looked unlikely to do us any favours or indeed advance on to this week as a messy double bogey on the par five second and another bogey on the driveable par four fourth saw him behind the eight ball.
All credit to the Georgia man though with his back against the wall he went bogey free and -6 for the rest of the way, including four birdies in his last seven holes, to get the job done and sneak in to this week.
This performance was the latest in a string of positive efforts from Henley and he must be hugely encouraged by notching his first back to back top tens in the PGA Tour in two years, and of course by how he rallied under pressure on the back nine.
One of the strongest on tour from tee to green over the past couple of seasons Henley currently sits third in approach play and 31st in accuracy. As well documented though the putter has been his main nemesis of late however there was again strong encouragement in this department in Boston as he ranked 22nd for the week with flatstick.
While Henley’s length off the tee could be an issue here I am happy to take the chance that with firm, fast conditions putting more of a premium on accuracy he will be able to flourish.
Ultimately a confident, inform Henley is more than capable of going toe to toe with the games big names and I am happy to take a chance that he can continue his recent momentum and produce the big week he needs to progress to the tour’s finale in his home state.
JASON KOKRAK – 100-1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 6th
Another player who will have been hugely buoyed by his efforts on Sunday in Boston is Jason Kokrak and I am keen to have the Canadian onside this week.
Facing almost certain exit from the Fedex Cup Kokrak produced a final round bogey free 65 on Sunday to squeak in to this week. Furthermore he produced an eagle on the 18th hole to get the job done! Playing on ‘house money’ this week Jason should now arrive in Illinois feeling he has absolutely nothing to lose and like Henley only a huge performance from the 35yr old will do this week to make it to East Lake.
One thing on the 35yr old’s side though is that he knows how to get the job done at this time of year as a he went on a strong run in last years play off’s to reach the tour’s finale, and after last Sunday I am sure he will fancy his chances to repeat that performance.
Looking at this weeks venue in contrast to Henley, at eighth on tour in driving distance the Canadian will be in a position to take advantage if length is key on certain holes.
Sixth last week in strokes-gained-tee-to-green and twelfth in approach play Kokrak appears to have found his long game at just the right time again delivering back to back top twenty finishes for the first time on tour this season, and I am happy to take my chances that he can produce another big week this week at juicy each way odds.
COREY CONNERS – 125-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 33rd
For my final selection this week I am going to return to the theme of my first two selections and chance another player who is solid from tee to green, Corey Conners.
Conners has been steady but unspectacular since the tour resumed in June posting six top 40 finishes in nine starts but nothing better than 19th along the way.
Last week in Boston it was more of the same from the Canadian as he finished 25th however after opening with a 72 there were positive signs as he went 65 69 67 the rest of the way posting only three over par holes in his final 54.
Always steady from tee to green if finding fairways is key this week then Conners, who sits 21st on tour in accuracy and was fifth in this department last week, is certainly a man to have on side. In addition of course when ‘on’ we know Conners has one of the strongest iron games on tour.
Last year the 28yr old arrived in Illinois in very similar form and he produced the big finish he needed to secure his place at East Lake and he will surely take confidence from that effort and I am happy to chance him to produce a similar effort this year on a course which should play to his strengths.
UPDATE 25th AUGUST
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - JOEL DAHMEN - DK VALUE - $6500 - FINISHED 20th - DK POINTS 57.5
Like most of those in our main team this week our first pick in this segment Joel Dahmen is another with motivation to produce a big performance in Illinois to get from outside to inside the top 30.
A strong ball striker Joel should be suited by this weeks test and his tenth place finish a couple of starts ago at TPC Harding park, a venue certainly which required a similar skillset for a shorter hitter like him, catches the eye.
A missed cut at last weeks birdie fest in Boston has seen Joel's DK value slump however this week should be far more to his liking and I am happy to include him in my line ups.
PICK 2 - MAVERICK McNEALY - DK VALUE $6200 - FINISHED 40th - DK POINTS 42.5
For my second pick this week I am going to take a flyer that despite not necassarily having the skillsets we would think would be required this week young superstar in the making Maverick McNealy can rise to the occassion.
There are a few reasons for my hunch on McNealy, firstly he has positive history at Olympia Fields having won back to back amateur events here in 2014 and 2015. In addition he reached the last 16 of the US Amateur here in 2015 before losing out to eventual winner Bryson Dechambeau. Furthermore McNealy's partner Danielle Kang won the womens PGA Championship here in 2017, which should add to his positive vibes with the venue.
Another factor, which draws me to McNealy in relation to DK this week is that he sits in the top 25 on tour this season in the Birdie Average stats and in a week where all players are guranteed to play all four rounds it would appear to make sense to take a chance on someone who has a strong pattern of birdie making.
All in all at $6200 there is enough to like about McNealy as a low cost option to fill out some line ups alongside bigger names.