It was a frustrating week for us at the Dell Technologies Championship. Things started badly with Billy Horschel’s unfortunate withdrawal in round 1 due to illness and finished with a typical 36 hole ball striking clinic from Kyle Stanley coupled with unfortunately with an also typical putting display from him.
As a result Kyle finished one shot shy of giving us a place return.
So, we dust ourselves down and onwards we go to week three of the Fedex Cup Play Off’s, The BMW Championship.
After the Dell Technologies Championship the field has now been whittled 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 in two weeks time.
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 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 at Aronimink Golf Club in Newton Square, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In 2012, 13 & 14 the PGA Tour named the BMW Championship as it’s tournament of the year.
The field as would naturally be expected is a stellar one this week and at the time of writing the market is headed up by Dustin Johnson, followed by Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose and Justin Thomas.
Aronimink is a par 70 measuring just over 7230yds.
The greens are Bentgrass.
The course was designed by Donald Ross and was opened for play in 1928.
Other Donald Ross designs used on tour include East Lake, home of the Tour Championship, Sedgefield Country Club, the annual home of the Wyndham Championship and Plainfield which hosted the 2011 and 2015 Barclays.
In 2003 a redesign/restoration project was completed at Aronimink under the supervision of Ron Pritchard [who was the designer of TPC Southwind].
Ross considered Aronimink his ‘masterpiece’ and the aim of the redesign was allowing for the advancement in technology to restore the course to play how Ross had intended.
The course is a tough, classical test with fairways which historically have been difficult to find, elevation changes and undulating greens.
There are several challenging doglegs on the front 9, particulary the Par 4 7th,, whilst the Par 4 10th is arguably the toughest hole on the course.
What is particularly noticeable at Aronimink is that the rolling fairways give the course a definite ‘Scottish feel’. This is unsurprising as Ross’ roots lie in Scotland.
Finally in preparation for the return of the PGA Tour this year a further restoration has taken place over the past 12 months under the supervision of Gil Hanse.
This includes the construction of 176 new bunkers to match the original design, the widening of some fairways and some greens being made larger.
Hanse has said that the wider fairways and larger greens, which afford different pin placements, will add a strategy element – players can think more about where they attempt to place shots to take advantage of better angles to the hole. When the fairways were more narrow, he said, the players' top concern was just keeping the ball in the fairway out of the rough.
Aronimink hosted the AT & T National in 2010 & 2011 and these events were won by Justin Rose & Nick Watney with scores of -10 & -13 respectively.
The good news also for fans in this area is that it has been confirmed that Aronimink will play host to the 2027 PGA Championship.
So let’s take a look at the last ten winners of the BMW Championship since 2008.
The winners of these events have been as follows;
2017 M Leishman
2016 D Johnson
2015 J Day
2014 B Horschel
2013 Z Johnson
2012 R McIlroy
2011 J Rose
2010 D Johnson
2009 T Woods
2008 C Villegas
Similarly to last week let’s take a look at how the winner of this event had performed in the first two Fedex Cup Play Off events.
Dell Tech Finish Barclays Finish
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
2009 T Woods 11th 2nd
2008 C Villegas 3rd MC
As we can see from the table above this event is where the momentum of the Play Off’s and recent form has historically really started to really kick in.
Basically in a nutshell it would seem that if you have not had a top 10 in your previous two starts coming in to this week then you can forget about winning.
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.
At the time of writing it seems that the days leading up to the tournament are dry however unfortunately it would appear there is a potential for storms both late on Thursday and on Friday.
If this does transpire this is disappointing on two fronts. Firstly of course no interruption in play is good news.
Secondly, the course is designed to play firm and fast so if we do get storms this will take a large chunk of the ‘sting’ out of it.
Saturday and Sunday look to be OK with regards to storms but they are both forecast as overcast days and there is potential for showers.
Wind does not look to be an issue over the first couple of days however Saturday and in particular Sunday are showing winds forecast at 15mph or there abouts so this could make the weekend conditions more challenging.
As I always say [and as we saw only last week!] though…this could all change!
I have decided this week that I am going to stick religiously to the historical formula for finding the winner in this event over recent years and to that I end, whether it proves to be the right or wrong decision I have put a red line through all players who have not finished in the top 10 in their one of their previous two starts.
As a result I have gone with four players this week as follows;
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA –28-1 – 1.5pts e/w 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 15th
At this time of year when you find yourself focusing on elite players it is fairly inevitable that you will end up going back to the well with the same player you were on recently and that is the case for us this week with Hideki Matsuyama.
We chanced Hideki at The Northern Trust two weeks ago and whilst he didn’t bring us a return he performed well enough to finish 15th.
Last week at the Dell Technologies Hideki then built on this performance to make a final round charge which lead to a 4th place finish.
Allowing for Hideki’s 11th place finish at The Wyndham Championship this means that Hideki’s last three starts now read 4 15 11, so clearly he is trending nicely.
The 11th place finish at the Wyndham is of particular interest of course as this was on another Donald Ross course in Sedgefield CC.
In addition Hideki has finished 5th and 12th in two of the past three years at the Donald Ross designed East Lake.
Hideki’s good play over the past three weeks has lead to him making his way in to the top 30 of the Fedex Cup standings and he now sits in 28th place.
This means that he needs a good performance this week to ensure he makes it to East Lake and there is a danger in this situation that whether subconsciously or not the focus falls on just doing what needs to be done to ensure he finishes in the all important top 30.
I would like to think though that with a player of Hideki’s calibre he will not be simply focused on this and instead he will employ the logic that if he wins the event the rest will take care of itself, and of course should he manage this he will also put himself in to the top 5 and in to a position where he could win the Fedex Cup.
With regards to Aronimink, allowing for the fact that the course has had a further redesign of late and in any case has not been seen on the PGA Tour since 2011, there is obviously a fair degree of guess work as to how it will play.
I do like the fact though that Hideki is a past winner at Muirfield Village, as like Aronimink Muirfield was designed [by Nicklaus] with the intention of being a homage to a Scottish course.
All of this though is of course tentative guess work at best and instead I am far more interested this week in focusing on current form and momentum and on this basis Hideki seems primed to win again soon and I am keen to have him onside.
JUSTIN ROSE –14-1 – 1.5pts e/w 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 2nd
The player I like most this week from the very top of the market is Justin Rose.
The Englishman was on a really solid run of results through the summer, which saw him notch four top 10s on the bounce on the PGA Tour culminating in his 2nd place finish at The Open Championship.
Unfortunately then just as Justin seemed primed for a big week at the WGC Bridgestone he was forced to withdraw on the eve of the event with back spasms.
After this set back Justin understandably did not seriously contend in his next start at the PGA Championship finishing 19th.
On the heels of this Justin then had a shock to the system at the Northern Trust in that he missed his first cut on the PGA Tour in just over a year.
In interviews last week Justin acknowledged that whilst he was of course disappointed with his performance at Ridgewood CC, allowing for the extra day before the Dell Technologies start it actually gave him a chance to go home, recharge the batteries, and work on a few things, and that this may have actually proved to be a blessing in disguise.
This certainly appeared to be the case at TPC Boston as Justin produced his best finish on a course, which since it’s advent as a Fedex Cup play off venue he has relatively struggled on over the years.
Taking the confidence this must have given Justin I am sure he will now be delighted to see the tour return to a venue he will have very fond memories of, having won the AT & T National at Aronimink in 2010.
I mentioned above that allowing for the recent course redesign and the potential for softer conditions this week that we cannot be sure how relevant the past course form will be but naturally it still a big positive that Rose is a previous course winner at a venue that the vast bulk of this weeks field will not have encountered before.
As well as his win at Aronimink Rose has a really strong record at East Lake over the recent years and has also performed well at the Ross designed Plainfield on the two occasions it has hosted the Barclays.
On this basis and on the back of his good finish at TPC Boston it is hard to not see Justin performing well this week and he is a ‘must’ inclusion for me this week.
ADAM SCOTT – 40-1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 6 FINISHED 51st
For better or worse I am also keen to give another chance to Adam Scott this week for the third event in a row.
Having cashed in on an e/w return at The Northern Trust I made the case for Scott again last week, which I naturally felt was a strong one, when making him our headline selection, but unfortunately things didn’t work out.
The problem for Adam last week was predominantly his old nemesis the putter as for the first three days at TPC Boston he was negative for SGP.
There were signs of encouragement though on Sunday as he rebounded to a certain extent with a closing 66.
The question therefore is do we think that Adam is really on the right track and close to another win with last week being a small blip, or do we think the two good weeks were a ‘flash in the pan’.
From what I have seen of the Aussie’s play recently and heard from him in interviews I genuinely think that it is the case of the former and with his price having drifted 10+ points on one iffy week I am happy to keep the faith.
As well as this train of thought we do also have some course form to go on in that Adam was 3rd here in 2011 at the AT&T, when in no kind of form coming in.
As I mentioned above looking at the historical data I am really keen on players this week who have a top 10 to their name in one of their previous two starts and whilst he disappointed at TPC Boston Adam obviously met this criteria with his 5th place at the Northern Trust.
From that point of view he fits the profile of past winners of this event like Rose, DJ and Zach Johnson who dipped at TPC Boston having had really good weeks in their previous start.
On this basis and on the basis I really do believe he is close to a big result I am happy to chance Adam once more this week.
CAMERON SMITH – 50-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 65th
For my final selection this week I am going to run with another Aussie, the youngster Cameron Smith.
Those who have been regular readers of mine will know that I included Cam at the beginning of the year in my ‘6 to follow’ picks for the PGA Tour and whilst he is yet to produce a win his string of high finishes have certainly justified that selection.
Cameron in fact has done everything but win on the PGA Tour this season having notched seven top 6 finishes on the season including a 5th place at the Masters.
As we know two of those top 6 finishes have come over the past two weeks so Cameron is certainly on top of his game right now. In fact the worst round he has shot in his last 8 rounds on the PGA Tour is 69.
I mentioned earlier when talking about the course that the greens at Aronimink are large and undulating and this should suit the strength of Cam’s game, his short game.
In addition if the forecast does prove correct and the wind picks up over the weekend having been brought up on the Brisbane Coast this will hold no fear for Cameron [as it won’t for our other three picks].
Whilst a win for Smith this week would be seen in certain quarters as a bit of a shock there is no doubt Cam is on the way to the very top of the game.
I am in no doubt that Smith is more than capable of delivering the goods in this company and I am keen to have the in form young Aussie on our team this week.
UPDATED SEPTEMBER 5th
TRADER - KEVIN KISNER. FINISHED 58th - BEST PRICE TRADED 130
This weeks trader pick is first and foremost based on the price and the big upside potential a strong performance will bring.
Kisner as we know has proved himself over the last couple of years as a man for the big stage so if his game is 'on' he will certainly not be afraid to perform in this company.
As recently as 3 weeks Kevin was right in the hunt at the halfway stage at the PGA before finishing 12th and we only have to go a month further back to find him finishing 2nd at Carnoustie.
Since the PGA Kevin made the cut at the Northern Trust, all be it finishing down the field, before finishing 24th last week at the Dell Technologies, closing with an eye catching 67.
It is hardly a case therefore that his game has fallen apart since the PGA!
Whilst we have no course form to go on at Aronimink Kevin played well at the Donald Ross designed East Lake last year to finish 3rd in the Tour Championship so this hopefully bodes well for him to take to this weeks venue.
Talking of East Lake Kevin currently sits 39th in the Fedex Cup standings so a big week is required from him to make it back there this year, so the insentive for a strong performance is certainly there.
As mentioned above Kevin has shown us time and again that he can produce the goods in big events so even though we have a world class field on display this week, based on his recemt form it is a little baffling to see him trading at over 200, and at this price I'm delighted to make him this weeks trader pick.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 230.