After a fairly lacklustre display from our two main picks Scheffler and Burns in Memphis, it ended up being a solid week as our big priced outsider Adam Schenk produced the goods to finish in a log jam tie for sixth place earning us a small profit on the week.
Starting from off the pace on Sunday things could have gone either way for us down the stretch as Schenk missed for birdie from 7ft on 15 and for eagle from 10ft on 16 and had he made on of these a full place payout would probably have been in the bag. Perhaps inevitably though he followed those misses with a bogey on 17 before then having to drain a 20ft par putt on 18 to bag us a share of the spoils. Very much an ‘up & down’ back nine then but I’ll take what we got and move on.
The event itself was won by Lucas Glover who continued his superb run of form to see off Patrick Cantlay in a play off and post back to back victories. Since changing to the long putter Glover as we know has been on the run of his life and surely now he must be seriously in the frame for a Ryder Cup pick.
Behind Glover and Cantlay we saw another strong week from Rory McIlroy while Tommy Fleetwood was once more the nearly man. Surely his day will come eventually.
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 50 players and with those who have made it this far now guaranteed a seat at the table in all of the big Signature Events next year I expect there to be plenty of players in good spirits this week!
That said of course there is still work to be done particularly for those outside of the current top 30 rankings as they look to punch a ticket to East Lake.
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, Cog Hill GC, which was the host of the historical Western Open and this years venue Olympia Fields, which last hosted the event in 2020.
The field as would naturally be expected is a stellar one with McIlroy marginally heading up the market from Scottie Scheffler. This duo are then followed by Jon Rahm who was victorious here in 2020 and ‘Mr Play Offs’ Patrick Cantlay.
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.
As we saw from the 4- under total here posted by Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson in 2020 Olympia Fields is somewhat of a brute to master and I expect a tough grind for the players this week.
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;
2022 P Cantlay
2021 P Cantlay
2020 J Rahm
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
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 Fedex St J/Northern Trust Finish
2022 P Cantlay - 57th
2021 P Cantlay - 11th
2020 J Rahm - 6th
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
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.
In 2019 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 2021 Jon Rahm built on a sixth place finish the previous week at the Northern Trust to bag the trophy in Illinois, while in 2021 Patrick Cantlay had finished 11th in the Northern Trust the week before picking up the BMW trophy.
Last year however Cantlay bucked the trend somewhat by finishing a lowly 57th the week prior however he had posted three top tens in his three previous starts to that.
With the host course changing for this event every year there is limited value in studying the leaderboards as a whole from the recent years, however it is naturally worth taking a closer look at the leaderboard from 2020 when the event was last held here. Here are the top ten from that week.
1st J Rahm, 2nd D Johnson, T3rd H Matsuyama & J Niemann, 5th T Finau, T6th J Kokrak, M Fitzpatrick, T8 S Munoz & B Todd, T10 L Griffin & M Hughes.
Those who watched that week will remember the incredible ending to the event, which saw DJ hole a 43ft putt to make the play off before Rahm responded by making a 66ft putt in the play off to take the victory. An incredible ending then, which due to the covid restrictions in place at the time was sadly only witnessed by a small number of people.
That week it was Rahm’s all round game, which got the job done as he finished in the top 15 for the week off the tee, in approach around the greens and on the greens. Add this to a leaderboard that was peppered with major champions like Johnson and Matsuyama and we are clearly looking at a major championship type test here.
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.
After a cool showery day to start the week we touch would look set for a dry sunny week as a whole, although Thursday does show the slight possibility of a storm.
Temperatures look set to sit in the mid to high 80s.
Wind could be a bit of an issue across the week particularly on Thursday, which shows the potential for 20mph + gusts.
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 31st
I was onboard with Rahm here when he triumphed in 2020 and I see no reason not to return to the well with him again this week.
Obviously a strong case can be made for anyone of the game’s elite, Rory McIlroy appears to be close to his best, Scottie Scheffler will be looking to bounce back from a lack lustre week last week, while Patrick Cantlay springs to life in the play offs and of course is looking for a ‘threepeat’ in this event on three different tracks. In addition who would bet against Lucas Glover at the moment!
Of the big three at the top of the market though it is Rahm who sticks out here having shown how much the track suits him in 2020. Based on that win three years ago the fact that the Spaniard is not favourite here or even second favourite is down to his relatively lack lustre form of late and indeed the lack of golf he has played in general since the end of April. That said still sat at number one in the Fedex Cup standings and with of course a busy schedule ahead including the Ryder Cup it may well be that Rahm has timed his run to perfection arriving in the Play Off’s fresh.
A runner up lets not forget at the Open in his last start prior to the Fedex St Jude Rahm was slowly out of the blocks in Memphis opening with a 73. From there on in though Jon produced three solid rounds of 67 67 68. Basically swap the rusty 73 on Thursday for a 67 and he would have finished sixth and would be seen as ‘trending’ in to this week strongly.
Delve further in to Rahm’s stats though from last week and we see that on Saturday he ranked first off the tee having ranked all but stone last in this area on day one. Clearly then things improved hugely for Rahm as the week progressed.
Moving on and while of course we don’t need to second guess based on his win here, we know that his all round tee to green prowess is ideal for this major style set up. This of course can also be said for Scheffler and McIlroy, however unlike the former of those two in particular we know Rahm can then back it up on the greens here as he did in 2020.
Fifth at the 2015 US Amateur here we have further evidence of the two time Major champions liking for the course and from that point of view the fact that Rahm tends to consistently perform well at the same tracks we know he likes over and again, is another strong pointer to a big week. Torrey Pines is of course a perfect example of this as is Muirfield Village, both of, which I should add I see as ‘big boy’ courses that tie well to here, and I fully expect him to ‘show up’ big time again here this week.
To sum up then while a win for McIlroy, Scheffler, Cantlay etc would of course be no shock this week its Rahm that appeals most at the odds from the top of the market and I am keen to have him on side.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA –33/1 – 1.5pts E/W 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED - WD
One player who didn’t even look close to being here this week until late on Sunday was Hideki Matsuyama and therefore with momentum so key in the play offs I am keen to side with the Japanese star here.
To expand further starting the week and indeed Sunday in the high 50s, Matsuyama needed a big effort to push his way in to the top 50 and at level par for the day on round four through 12 holes his race looked run. Out of nowhere though Hideki produced a five under salvo from 13 through to 17, including an eagle on 16, which after a great par from the back of the green on 18 meant he pushed himself in to 47th place.
If ever there was a good time for the phrase ‘playing on house money’ then this is surely it, as with his season having looked done late on Sunday afternoon this really has to be a bonus.
Looking at that season as a whole and there is no doubt it has been a disappointing one for a player of Matsuyama’s calibre, some solid weeks no doubt but no top tens since the Players tells the story.
As we know though motivation as well as momentum is a huge factor and I am keen on the idea that having landed this unexpected opportunity Hideki will be keen to salvage a disappointing 2023.
Starting the week at 47th we know he needs a really strong performance here to make the top 30 so there will be no thought of hanging on to what he has.
So then with Hideki hopefully free wheeling with a new lease of life what of the track? Well the positive is that he finished third here in 2020, when it should be noted he was in a similar lacklustre spell that had seen him manage no better than 20th since the covid hiatus.
Add that to the fact that Hideki is a winner at Memorial and of course Augusta, both of, which tie well here to me and Olympia Fields certainly looks a strong fit for him.
Looking at Hideki’s stats for the week in Memphis and he had his best day in the long game department on Sunday ranking eighth in round four in approach play, while his putter co- operated nicely through the week.
I’ll take Hideki then to build on Sunday’s big finish and produce a really strong week here.
SAHITH THEEGALA – 80/1 – 1pt E/W 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED 15th
Next up I am going to take a chance on Sahith Theegala.
After a rip roaring start to 2023, which saw the young star build on his tremendous debut season by posting four top tens by the end of April, including a ninth on his Augusta debut, things have gone somewhat quiet for Sahith.
After missing three cuts on the spin though, including in the Scottish Open and Open Championship and then at the 3M Open, Theegala came out firing again in Memphis after a fortnight off and posted his best finish, 13th, since the RBC Heritage in the spring.
Looking at Sahith’s week at TPC Southwind and he saved his best till last, closing with a 66 on Sunday ranking fourth off the tee that day while his putter co operated nicely through the week ranking eighth.
Heading in to this week then and the thing that really catches my eye is the success Theegala has had on tough classical set ups since he has been on tour, which tie well to this weeks test.
Fifth at Muirfield Village last year was followed by fourth at Torrey Pines, sixth at Riviera and 14th at Bay Hill this year. In addition as alluded to earlier he was ninth on his Masters debut in the spring. Clearly then Sahith likes the kind of test offered up by Olympia Fields.
Coming in to the week sat in 31st place Theegala has an awful lot to play for as he looks to make it to East Lake for the second season running and my one slight concern is that if he finds himself in the mix heading in to the weekend he may potentially focus on doing what needs to be done to secure that top thirty spot rather than pushing on for the really big finish. That said we know that the young man is a fearless player who can compete in the big events with the big names and I have to trust he will go all out for the win if in the hunt.
To sum up then with his lack lustre summer Theegala’s odds have drifted out to an eye catching price allowing for the big finishes he has produced in high quality fields. Couple that with his return to form last week and I am happy to take a chance he pushes on again here and produces a big week.
PATRICK RODGERS – 200/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED 37th
Finally I can’t resist a roll of the dice this week on Patrick Rodgers.
After a solid season Rodgers scraped in to the top 50 in the final spot, 50th place, and after what was I am sure a nervy weekend in Memphis he will surely feel a sense of relief as he heads to Illinois.
Rodgers came agonisingly close to bagging that elusive maiden tour win at the Barracuda Championship recently only to miss out to Akshay Bhatia in a play off after his tee shot found a divot. Since then he played solidly at the 3M Open before a missed cut at the Wyndham and the nervy week in Memphis ensued.
Released now as I say from the pressure though Patrick returns this week to a venue he knows well and loves having bagged back to back college titles at Olympia Fields in 2011 and 2012.
Brought up in Avon Indiana a three hour drive from Olympia Fields Rodgers clearly feels at home in this area and on the bentgrass greens in play, and his college coach talked about this at the time of his second win here.
Obviously you cannot put too much stock in college results from over ten years ago however if you add that to Patrick’s length off the tee, his strong efforts at venues like Quail Hollow, Torrey Pines, Riviera and Muirfield Village over the years and there is clearly an affinity to the type of test he will face this week and the extra comfort he will have returning here can only help.
A win here for Patrick would of course be a huge shock however at pretty much the outsider in the field we are getting very juicy each way odds for the place and with nothing to lose and his only chance of making the top 30 a huge week, I am happy to take my chances.